Tag Archives: Oxford

Card Carrying Commies (1)

During the days of the Soviet Union, people frequently joined the Communist Party mainly by reason of their political beliefs or for career advancement. It must have been like joining the Church of England or being a Freemason or buying your way into a top university like Oxford or Cambridge. It was not compulsory, but entirely by coincidence, everybody in the top jobs had done it.
Communist Party members had a booklet to prove their membership, pocket sized at 11 cm by 8 cm. Now that the Evil Empire has collapsed (the Soviet Union, not the Church of England or the Freemasons) you can buy old ones which belonged to previous Party members on ebay. Here is one of the job lot of 10 that I bought years ago. I only paid £3 each so I’m already making a profit from the deal if you have a look at current prices:

The lettering is in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet which is based on Ancient Greek. Here is the Greek alphabet, beloved of mathematicians and physicists, and ancient Greeks, presumably:

The top four words of the red cover of the booklet mean “Proletarians of all countries, unite”. You might recognise the “Pi-Rho-Omicron-Lambda” of the first word. Here is Marx’s phrase printed more clearly:

The second version of the Communist mission statement above is in Ukrainian because, as you will see, both of the Party members in these blog posts are from the Ukraine. Ukrainian is slightly different from Russian. You can always recognise Ukrainian because it has the letters  “ i ” and “ ï ”.

This means “Communist Party (of the) Soviet Union”.

You might recognise the “Kappa-Omicron-Mu-Mu” of the first word. Soviet Union begins with the non-Greek letter ‘C’ which is our letter ‘S’. You will have seen it perhaps on ice hockey players with their CCCP letters.

The abbreviation at the bottom is “ц-K” which stands for “Central Committee”. “ц” is a non Greek letter which means “ts” as in “bits”. “KПCC” is again “Communist Party (of the) Soviet Union”.

The first page on the inside has some bald bloke on it:

His autograph is at the end, “Ulyanov (Lenin)”. The quote, again with lots of Greek letters, is “(The) Party (is the) Intellect, Honour and Conscience (of) Our Epoch”. The words in brackets are not in the text. Russian does not normally have “the” “a” or “is, are”.

More from “Know your Enemy” next time.

 

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Filed under History, Humour, Politics, Russia

The Officer Training Corps 1915 Part Three

This photograph shows the Officer Training Corps in 1915. You might be forgiven for thinking that they are all far too young to have left the school, to have immediately joined the army, trained as officers, gone to the Western Front and then been killed. But you would be wrong. Three of the twelve were to be lost, although this is a much better casualty rate than the rugby team of Boxing Day, 1913. On the other hand, though, it is still a staggering 25%!

Previously, I have written about the eventual fate of the teachers, and I have talked about the fate of the three boys who were destined to die in the Great War. This time I will try to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the remaining nine boys, all of whom, you will be pleased to know, came back home from the  fields of Flanders.

Once again, here are the names. On the back row of the photograph are, left to right, F.A.Bird, J.R.Coleman, D.J.Clarkson, J.Marriott, A.W.Barton, G.R.Ballamy, S.I.Wallis and W.D.Willatt.

On the front row are, left to right, L.W.Foster, V.G.Darrington, Second Lieutenant J.L.Kennard, Captain G.F.Hood, Second Lieutenant L.R.Strangeways, G.James and R.I.Mozley:

otc 1915

If J.Marriott was John Marriott, then a wild guess says that his father, or perhaps even grandfather, may have been Frank Marriott, an Old Boy of the school who played First XI football from 1868 at least, and then played nine times for Notts County between 1872-1874. Frank’s own father was John Marriott, a victualler, of Warser Gate in Nottingham. In England, a victualler was the keeper of an inn, a tavern or a restaurant, who had a licence to sell alcohol.

G.R.Ballamy was the brother of Harold William Ballamy, the Captain of Football in 1912. The family lived at 17a, Gedling Grove, Nottingham. I will be writing a blogpost about Harold Ballamy in the future. This is the family’s house in Gedling Grove, which nowadays is just behind the northbound High School tram stop:

ballamy 2

S.I.Wallis left the High School for the Army. He became a Lieutenant in the Sikhs/Pioneers and then a Captain in the same unit. He was also at various times, a Captain in the Indian Army Reserve of Officers and the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

On May 29th 1915, William Donald Willatt was to play for the 2nd XI cricket team against Derby Grammar School 2nd XI. He scored five runs before he was out to Shellard leg before wicket. William was the school Fives champion on one occasion, a title also won by his brother, Victor Guy Willatt. Fives was a Victorian and Edwardian version of Squash, using a fingerless leather glove to bash a ball made of cork, gutta percha and leather. Not a game for softies! Here is the school Fives Court:

best fives

In partnership with a fellow pupil, Roy Henderson, William was later to start a school magazine called “The Highvite”. By Henderson’s own admission, it was “a pretty dreadful magazine”, and it only survived because it was financed by a variety of different adverts. The two enterprising young men went round to canvas support from local companies, shops such as Sisson & Parker and many other businesses. This screen capture shows the moment William was promoted to temporary Second Lieutenant in the Somerset Light Infantry:

Capture   willatt xxxxxxxxAt the end of the war, he could walk away:

Capture   willatt.JPG  two zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzEventually, William became the Vicar of St.Martin’s, Sherwood:

church

At this time, he was living in West Bridgford. In 1949, a W.D.Willatt became Vicar of Edwalton, a post which he held until 1955. This was presumably the same man.

G.James has proved difficult to trace and I have found out very little about him. In the 1912-1913 football season, he played at left half or right half for the 1st XI. The School Magazine reported that he:

 “Plays a good defensive game sometimes, but completely fails to help the attack.”

A year later, in 1913-1914, he played more or less exclusively as a right half. We also have his contributions to what seems a heated debate about various matters of school discipline. At this time, the Prefects were more or less in charge of this aspect of school life:

“On April 29th 1915, at 4.15 p.m., all of the Prefects met to discuss a “revision of the rules of discipline”. With reference to Rule 18, G.James suggested that attendance at the Officer Training Corps be made compulsory. This was seconded by School Captain, L.M.Clark, and carried unanimously. J.H.Boyd, the Captain of School Cricket, then suggested that games also be made compulsory. Again, the motion was carried unanimously.”

Young James was obviously a young man well ahead of his time, because he then went on to put forward the idea that three afternoons a week should be allocated to games, or perhaps two to games and one to military training:

“Unfortunately, his idea was not supported, the rest of the Prefects thinking that this would involve a too sweeping reform of the school time table.”

Presumably, from a logistical point of view, even with perhaps four afternoons available, it would have been completely impossible for a large proportion of the High School, which now numbered almost five hundred boys, all to play sport simultaneously, at a sports ground designed to accommodate perhaps only a hundred boys at a time.

L.W.Foster, or Lancelot Wilson Foster, to give him his full name, remains a figure about whom I have discovered just unrelated snippets. Before the Great War, the Fifth Form, (Year 11), always used to play their football under cover, in the sheds tucked under the Forest Road wall. They were noted for kicking the ball against the wall in an effort to get past their opponent. The Fifth Form usually played mainly in the eastern half of the sheds:

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This is the view in the other direction:

one west

Among these fifteen and sixteen year old boys, Lancelot Foster was remembered as a particularly good full back. In 1915, Roy Henderson, of “Highvite” fame, arranged a summer camp at a farm near Grantham in Lincolnshire. Six boys, all members of his father’s church, went with him. They were all Prefects, and comprised three pairs of friends, Harold Connop and Francis Bird, Thomas Wright and Lancelot Foster, and John Boyd and Roy Henderson.

In the Great War, Lancelot Wilson Foster became Lieutenant Foster of the 9th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters He survived the carnage and in 1929, was living in Buglawton Vicarage, Cheshire, presumably as the vicar.

Victor George Darrington, lived at “The Limes” in Eastwood. He was born on November 25th 1896 and entered the High School on September 23rd 1909, at the age of twelve. His father was William Darrington, the Schoolmaster at the School House in Eastwood. As such, he must surely have taught the young D.H.Lawrence, who was born and bred in this mining village, before continuing his education at the High School in September 1898. Perhaps William Darrington was the person who encouraged the budding young author to sit for a scholarship to the High School:

dh-lawrence

From 1938 to 1939, William was Mayor of Eastwood:

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Victor was in the team which won the Football Eights competition in 1912. He was a regular member of the First Team in the 1913-1914 season, playing at either centre half or left half. The decision having been taken to switch from football to rugby in the Spring Term of 1915, the First and Second Football Teams played their last ever fixtures during the Autumn Term of 1914. At this sad time, Victor duly became the last High School Captain of Football until 1968. During this Autumn Term, Victor was also the Captain of the School.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, given that there was an imminent change of sport in the offing, neither of the two football teams seems to have had their hearts in it, and their results were very disappointing. The Nottinghamian does not appear to have listed any of the players who took part. After the demise of football, Victor was to become the school’s first Captain of Rugby, a post he was to retain during the following season of 1915-1916.

During the Great War, Victor became a Lieutenant, firstly in the Royal Field Artillery, and then in the newly formed Royal Air Force:

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He was wounded on May 30th 1916, and then again on September 29th of the same year. He survived the conflict, and in 1922, was awarded a Diploma in Forestry at Oxford. Victor returned to Nottinghamshire, and in 1929, he was still living at “The Limes”, in Eastwood.

I will be writing a blogpost about Victor George Darrington in the future.

 

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Gunpowder, treason and Nottingham

Not many people would connect the High School and Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot, but the link is there, if you trace it through carefully……

…..Brian Garnett, or Garnet, is thought to have been the Master of the Free School during some unknown period between the years 1564-1575.

free school

It is considered most probable that he took up the post between 1564-1567, and then retired in, probably, 1575. He may then have lived in Beeston, but he was certainly buried in Heanor in Derbyshire on December 21st 1576, as the “Late Skoolemaster of Nottingham”.

With his wife, Alice Jay, he had at least three sons, Richard, John and Henry, and three daughters, Margaret, Eleanor and Anne,  all of whom became nuns at Louvain.

Of the sons, Henry is the most notable, because eventually he was to become the Superior of the Jesuits in England, and, allegedly, an active member of the Gunpowder Plot which, in earlier centuries, often used to be called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason. In general terms, the plot, of course, was a failed assassination attempt to blow up the Protestant King James I of England and his entire Parliament, by filling the cellars of the building with gunpowder. lighting the fuse, and retiring quickly and sensibly to a minimum distance of at least fifty yards.

GunpowderPlot dddddddddGarnet was not quite tasked with carrying the barrels of gunpowder into the cellars, but rather, he was deemed to have been guilty of knowing all the details of the assassination attempt, but then doing nothing to save either the King’s life or those of his courtiers. Here he is….

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In recent times, some doubt has been cast on the extent to which Garnet was actually aware of the dastardly plot, because all the details he knew were revealed to him through the plotters’ confessions. Of course, by the strict rules of his Catholic religion, Garnet was automatically prevented from informing the authorities by the absolute confidentiality of the confessional.

None of this alters the basic fact, though, that Henry Garnet was executed for treason, on May 3rd 1606. At his trial, the jury had needed only fifteen minutes to reach their verdict.

Where the tiniest of doubts still exists, however, is whether Henry was ever a pupil at the Free School, as no registers of this period are still in existence. It is certainly true, though, that he was educated in Nottingham, and the national rules in place at the time allowed only one school in each town or city. In any case, it is surely beyond credibility that he was not associated with the Free School during his father’s tenure of the position of Master, that is to say, the only teacher who was working there.
Indeed, at least one source says that young Henry came to the Free School during Henry Cockrame’s time as Master (most probably 1563-1564), possibly a year or so before Cockrame left in 1565 and was replaced by Henry’s father, Brian Garnett of Heanor, Derbyshire. Henry is supposed to have studied for two years under his father’s tutelage, before leaving for Winchester College where he was elected as a scholar on August 24th 1567 and duly entered the school in 1568.

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Henry had been well taught in Nottingham, and proved to be an able student at Winchester. According to “The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”…..

“His love of music and “rare and delightful” voice were complemented by an ability to perform songs without preparation, and he was reportedly also skilled with the lute.
Father Thomas Stanney wrote that Garnet was “the prime scholar of Winchester College, very skilful in music and in playing upon the instruments, very modest in his countenance and in all his actions, so much that the schoolmasters and wardens offered him very great friendship, to be placed by their means in New College, Oxford.”

Instead of the delights of New College, Oxford, however, when he left the school in 1571, Garnet moved to London to work for a publisher. Shortly afterwards, in 1575, he travelled to the continent and joined the Society of Jesus. Garnet then moved to Rome to study for the priesthood with the Jesuits. He was finally ordained as a priest around 1582. (Note the ear of corn which will be important)

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Whatever happened in his life during the next twenty three years in the service of the Lord, by virtue of the events of May 3rd 1606, Henry Garnet must surely remain the only Old Nottinghamian ever to have been convicted as a terrorist, and, indeed, one of the very few ever to have been hanged, drawn and quartered, and then to have had his severed head placed on a pole on London Bridge.

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(That’s going to hurt)

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(This engraving will be next month’s Caption Contest)

Thankfully, the more lurid details of his execution have survived in Antonia Fraser’s book, “The Gunpowder Plot”…..

“Garnet said his prayers, and was then thrown off the ladder and hanged.

beforfe execuion xxxxxxxxxx

Before the executioner could cut him down alive, many in the crowd pulled on his legs, and as a result, Garnet did not suffer the remainder of his grim sentence. There was no applause when the executioner held Garnet’s heart aloft and said the traditional words, “Behold the heart of a traitor”.
His head was set on a pole on London Bridge, but crowds of onlookers fascinated by its pallid appearance eventually forced the government to turn the head upwards, so its face was no longer visible.”

From this peculiar pallid appearance of course, came the widely held belief that Garnet’s head did not suffer any signs of decay or change.

nov 4th heads xxxxxxx(Can you spot Garnet’s head?)

Nowadays, of course, we are a lot more civilised and the heads of traitors are no longer placed on a pole on London Bridge. Instead, we have just two or three of the more unsuccessful Premier League managers.

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(Why is nobody taking any notice?)

The final, and a slightly more serious thing to be said about Henry Garnet is that way back on May 3rd 1606, according to those who were there, a miraculous portrait of him apparently appeared on an ear of corn onto which drops of his blood had fallen at the moment of his execution. This particular ear of corn was later credited with achieving a number of miracles. At one point, it was taken secretly out of the country into the possession of the Society of Jesus, before, with its size surely playing a part, it was lost, rather appropriately, during the French Revolution.

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The Roman Catholic Church, of course, has a large number of saints who have done far less than Henry Garnet to earn their sainthoods. Names which spring to my mind would include St.Buriana, St.Erc, St.Ia and any number of Cornish villages named after other dimly remembered saints.

Perhaps one fine day, Henry Garnet may yet become the only Old Nottinghamian ever to be canonised.

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The Diary of S.A. Casswell, 16¾

Four or five years ago, I had a phase when I bid for a few diaries on eBay. One particular diary that I bought was the “Charles Letts Schoolboy’s Diary for 1935”. The inscription on the inside front cover reads “With Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas and the New Year from Johnie” (sic)

Typical of a boy perhaps, the diary is barely filled in at all, and where it is, it is helpfully done in his own personal code. Whatever happened on June 11, it was 7  I  T and so was the previous Tuesday, June 4th.  June 3rd, however, was 8 Sw I T. January 1st was  “9 Sp I Party” and January 2nd was “Rec. Card (New Year). February 20th was “Sp.I. Party  T.Lodge”. It may be that the owner was using his old 1935 schoolboy diary to record events when he was in the R.A.F. (see below). This would be because it was not allowed to keep a diary in the British Armed Forces, in case you were captured, and your scribblings were of use to the Nazis. This cunning plan is certainly implied by his entry for January 16th which reads “Night Raid on Berlin 1943 spoke to one pilot”.

I  know only the young man’s surname and initials. He was called S.A.Casswell and he lived at a house called “Tudor Lodge”.

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This pleasant house was in the rural village of Sutterton, which is near Boston in Lincolnshire.

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S.A.Casswell  weighed nine stone seven pounds and was five feet seven inches tall. He took a size eight in gloves, a size seven in boots, a size one in collars and his hat was a six and seven eighths. His birthday was on August 25th 1919, so he was fifteen when he received the diary as a Christmas present. He seems to have liked it so much, that he didn’t start entering anything into it until possibly early 1937, when he would have been sixteen years old. Sadly, the very fact that I now possess his diary must surely mean that S.A.Casswell is no more. On the other hand, a quick search of the Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission website reveals that at least he did not die before his time in battle.

His bicycle frame number was Y27697 and his Unemployment Book serial number was 3243. He went to school on the 7.50 a.m. train, and possibly came back home on the 5.24 p.m. He only lists two trains which will take him to school but he lists a total of six trains which will bring him back home. They are the 11.30 a.m., the 2.46 p.m., the 4.10 p.m. (on Saturdays only), the 5.19 p.m. and originally the 7.50 p.m. although this was replaced by the 8.40 p.m. in later years. At school he did not study Scripture but he did study Arithmetic and Algebra and Geometry and Trigonometry and Mechanics. He studied Physics and Chemistry and Botany with English Composition and English Literature, along with History and Geography and Latin and Art. He has not recorded any of his marks in tests and exams, so he was either not particularly outstanding, or perhaps, extremely modest. For some peculiar reason, he has pasted a receipt inside the front cover of the diary. It is for the three pence  to join the Literary and Debating Society at school on October 5th 1937 when he not only paid out the money to join, but signed the receipt for it as well. Perhaps he was later to go into banking, or maybe even politics.

Casswell didn’t use his piece of “Forbes Blotting” which is still inside the diary as a free gift, but he has given us one or two really interesting insights into the life of a schoolboy. He certainly had some kind of interest in sport. He has recorded the fact that in 1934 and 1935 Cambridge won the Boat Race by adding it in pencil at the end of the printed list. On the page which records the athletic records for universities and schools, he has written what are now incomprehensible figures underneath the one mile, long jump and high jump. He has also inserted performance figures for Spalding Grammar School which may or may not have been achieved by him. For the hundred yards, for example, the school record was 10.6 seconds. For 220 yards the record was 24 seconds, for 440 yards the record was 55.6 seconds by P. Nicholson in 1933, for half a mile it was 2 minutes 14 seconds, and for a mile it was 4 minutes 57 seconds. For the long jump, J.B. Britain achieved 19 feet 8¾ inches in 1937 and H.G. Harrison or perhaps Hugh Harrison threw the cricket ball the magnificent distance of  96 yards 1 foot 2 inches in 1937. The high jump record for the school was 5 feet 1½ inches. This was achieved in 1938 and equalled in 1939.

He has recorded the books which he has read, although strangely they are both dated “1937” in this “1935” diary. Typically for a boy perhaps, he has read only two books. They are both by H.G.Wells and they are called “The Camford Visitation” and “Star Begotten”. Both of these were written in 1937, so they were pretty well hot off the presses.  The former work cost him the princely sum of two shillings. The latter book was one of the first, if not the first, to postulate the idea that aliens are visiting the earth to modify Mankind genetically, a scenario familiar to anybody who has dared to look into the vast internet swamp of claims regarding alien abduction.

It is only when S.A.Casswell lists the films that he went to see at the cinema, presumably in Boston, that we realise what a fascinating and attractive world the silver screen must have been for a boy, or a young man perhaps, of 16 or 17 years of age. I will just list the films that he saw, and their connection to the Internet.

There is a vast variety of films that he watched and they do not include those whose titles I have quite simply been unable to decipher. Presumably, in the absence of television during the 1930s, a weekly visit to the cinema must have been the norm for almost every family that could afford it. It is equally striking that even with the other six evenings of the week left largely vacant, this young man seems not to have been over tempted by the opportunity to read books…

Jericho,   Wee Willie Winkie,  Victoria the Great  , The Littlest Rebel, Green LightFive over England Three Smart Girls,  Take my Tip   ,Storm in a Teacup  The Prisoner of Zenda Souls at Sea   Oh, Mr. Porter!   The Squeaker  A Star is Born Dr Syn   Marie Walewska   Hells Angels    A Yank at Oxford   The Count of Monte Cristo    Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Pygmalion    Blockade   Black Limelight   The Adventures of Robin Hood Kidnapped   Sixty Glorious Years   Alexander’s Ragtime Band Crime School If I were King   

“Crest of the Wave” and “Lot’s Wife” were both theatrical plays rather than films. He saw “The Prisoner of Zenda” while away at Oxford.

Man with Wings The Dawn Patrol  The Citadel  Angels with Dirty Faces That Certain Age  with Deanna Durbin, Old Bones of the River   with Will Hay You Can’t Take It with You It’s in the Air  and finally, Everything Happens to Me with Max Miller.

S.A.Casswell has recorded only one address in the relevant section. It is Roy Daughton who lived originally at 385, Kings Road Chelsea S.W. 10. Roy moved subsequently to 5, Gerald Road S.W.1 on an unknown date.

And that is probably all I will ever know for definite about S.A.Casswell. I did though make a more determined effort with his private code and came to what I thought was a reasonable explanation of events. As I said earlier, the major problem with the diary is that so many entries are in code, and they appear to be spread over several years. Nowadays, it is going to be extremely difficult to be absolutely certain about this code, given that the entries may refer to completely different circumstances. However, if we accept that S.A.Casswell, at the shy and tender age of 16¾ was sweet on a girl whose name began with a letter I then there is some kind of sense to it all. “Sp.I Party” therefore means that he spoke to Irene or Iris or even Ianthe at a party. “Rec. Card” means that he received a card from her for the New Year. “Ph to I” may well mean “Phone Irene”, and he may have done this after the “Panto” on January 16. On this date, there is another entry, an RAF one, which says “Night Raid on Berlin 1943 spoke to one pilot”. Towards the end of January he starts mentioning “Sp.I Cd  Pty  Ddke” and this is clearly something to do with the girl. On January 25, 1938 the Aurora Borealis was visible mainly from 6.30 p.m. until nine o’clock, but it then persisted to a lesser extent until at least midnight. On January 29th he has written “Three leave began” (an RAF reference?) and “Ph to I re tomorrow”. The next day, it is “Avec I 4 party at Peterboro”, presumably the day he invented texting.
In February, there is more French, with “Avec I 9 pty to Dnce Gldrdrm.” Presumably he is just missing out the vowels in this last entry. From then on S.A.Casswell’s diary is a mixture of, we presume, speaking to Irene at various venues, including the Post Office, and going to parties. There was an election on April 5th when he spoke to Irene, perhaps, at Tudor Lodge.

On April 8th we have “Sp I (drawing of a bell) W.D. avec C.C.”. On May 3rd we have perhaps “I and L ( with a square drawn around it) and “first-time” also in brackets. He saw I again on May 10th and two days later, he spoke to her again on the day of the Coronation. On May 31st he spoke to her at the tennis courts, and on June 2nd he heard, perhaps optimistically,  of the “break with Nigel”. On June 5 he played tennis with her. On June 13th he spoke to her but also wrote the enigmatic “gulls etc” alongside this entry. On July 4th he wrote “ I at Hendon phone”. On July 30th he played tennis with her again ( Plyd T. avec I.). On August 4th he went on holiday to Cornwall and Devon, visiting Cheddar, Penzance, Looe, Torquay, (when he got the Inter Science result) then Minehead and Burford before coming back on August 7th. On August 13th he went with “ I & six to Butlins & on the thriller”, presumably a fairground ride of some type but he also received his Higher result . On Saturday, August 31st, S.A.Casswell went on holiday again at exactly 10.30.a.m. visiting Oxford, Trinity and Stonehenge of which he has drawn a lovely little pencil sketch.

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He finally arrived at Bournemouth at 9.00.p.m.On September 2nd, he went to Poole Potteries where he sketched some of the pots.  The next day, he sailed around the Isle of Wight in the “Emperor of India”. He saw the Needles, Southampton Water, the Spithead forts, a submarine and an aircraft carrier. In the evening, he saw a variety show at the Pavillion (sic) in Bournemouth. On September 4th, he crossed Poole Harbour by ferry and visited “The Great Globe” and then the Tilly Whim Caves near Swanage. In the evening, he visited the illuminated gardens and fountain at Bournemouth. On the 5th, it was tennis at Meyrick Park followed by Lulworth Cove and the Cordite Works until continuous rain from 6.00p.m. brought the day to a close. Next day, there was a Buckhound meet at Barley, he bathed, he visited the library and museum, and then walked through the town and gardens. On Saturday he “went on (not in) the Boating Lake at Parkestone” before watching “Fanfare” at the Palace Court. He returned from his holiday on September 8th.

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“Sp I” continues fitfully through September and October but there are few entries in either November or December, so it looks as if the romance may have petered out. He seems to have spoken to her on occasion over the Christmas period, including Christmas Day itself, “9 Rec Card. Sp I  Pty Ddk”. On December 30th he seems to have “See I Bycl St Rd” where “St” must surely mean “Station”. He spent his last day as he had most of the year “Sp I Party Tud Lod”.

I did make valiant efforts to trace his rather distinctive name on the Internet, and this was not a total failure. During the Second World War, I found an S.A.Casswell who was in the R.A.F. Perhaps because he had studied Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Mechanics, Physics and Chemistry,  this  S.A.Casswell was a Meteorological Officer. He worked on the staff of the Meteorological  Office itself, rather than being attached to an individual squadron and lecturing aircrew about likely weather conditions before they flew off into combat. In 1998, what must surely be the same man, still living in Boston, Lincolnshire, appears as the author of an abstract entitled “A wind-direction display system”.  His subsequent death at home in Milnthorpe around November 29th 2007 was then announced on the Society News page of the magazine “Weather”. Unfortunately, there are two Milnthorpes, one near Wakefield in Yorkshire, the other a much likelier place to retire to, perhaps, on the coast of Cumbria, near Kendal and the Lake District. The paper “A wind-direction display system” was then posted posthumously on the Internet on April 30th 2012.

I was unable to discover if this particular S.A.Casswell  was married, and if so, what was his wife’s first name. Hopefully, it was Irene or Iris or even Ianthe.

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A twitch to Dorset and the Beautiful South

(An extract from my old birdwatching diary “Crippling Views”)

I used to be a very keen twitcher, driving hundreds of miles to see a rare bird. It sounds really stupid now, but it wasn’t. It was exciting…

Saturday, July 23, 1988
A late-night phone call and by 10:30 p.m., I’m being picked up to drive overnight in an attempt to see a Terek Sandpiper, one of the very few birds to have an upturned beak.

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At the time, this wader was extremely rare in this country, and for reasons best known to itself, this particular individual was a very long way indeed from where it should have been. Yellow is summer, and blue is winter…

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Our target bird is a good drive from Nottingham, at Stanpit Marshes, near Christchurch, far down in deepest Dorset…

We go past all sorts of romantic dual carriageway turnoff signs, Oxford, Salisbury, all places I wouldn’t mind seeing one day, but not tonight, or rather today, for as we arrive at Stanpit, Rosy fingered Dawn is just beginning to lighten the eastern sky.

MARSH  vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

I feel terrible, truly awful. We all sleep for the best part of half an hour, slumped in the car. When we emerge the light is really quite good, but the drawback is that it is pelting down with heavy drenching rain, which is the worst possible thing for glasses and valuable optics. We walk out onto the marsh, where there is the normal selection of shelducks and black headed gulls, sitting out on a shingle bank, but anything more subtle is going to be difficult in this appalling weather. Cleaning off my glasses has already soaked my one and only handkerchief, and I am very loathe  to get either my binoculars or my telescope out from under my old waxed jacket. I hate the rain.
In the hour before we left, I did a little bit of research on the Terek Sandpiper. The literature that I read said that they were not amazingly different from Common Sandpipers, especially when seen badly or from a distance. One particularly good point, though, is that they feed at a much quicker rate than the Common Sandpipers with which they often associate. Bearing this in mind, I take a closer look at three Common Sandpipers feeding in a creek….

common sand.jpg zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

One individual is pecking away a lot quicker rate than the other two, and seems rather dumpy and portly to me. Whether its beak is upturned or not, I just cannot see, the rain is coming down too hard. I call Paul, but he can’t penetrate the gloom either. The other two birdwatchers I’m with are a lot more experienced than I am, so I just meekly point out the birds to them, say that I think that they are worth looking at, but don’t labour the point. Neither of them seems to be particularly impressed, because they stalk off into the middle distance, without even a backward glance. Unabashed, I try to get closer to the three birds, but succeed only in flushing them, and they all fly off along the edge of the creek. I presume that that is the end of it.
It isn’t though, because we soon come across a group of birdwatchers, all intently watching a Terek Sandpiper.

another terekxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

It has just flown in with two Common Sandpipers apparently (LOL, you would say nowadays). It is visible at the edge of the main creek. We watch it for a good while. It’s a rather delicate, if pot-bellied bird, as it feeds rapidly in the shallows. It even bathes briefly, preening itself with what in the telescope is obviously a wonderfully upturned bill.
Our next port of call is a little village called Corfe Mullen, a really posh place, compared to our pathetic Northern Hovels. All great big mansion houses, with huge country gardens, all filled with exquisitely trimmed conifers. Here is a beautiful Southern Hovel…housesxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

There’s a small triangle of grass in the middle of the village, surrounded by lots of lovely telegraph wires, all eager to support the delicate weight of a Red-rumped Swallow.

Red-rumped-Swallow WIRE xxxxxxxx

Not today, though. We stroll along the surrounding lanes, turning up a few swallows and housemartins. It’s not a great day for hirundines, because it’s a bit drizzly still, and somewhat cold. There cannot be many insects up there for them to catch. After a couple of hours searching, we suddenly hear a cry. I look up and see the bird, completely distinctive with its dark rear end, and nobody is any doubt as it disappears over a distant line of trees.

RED RUMP FLYING zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

After this, we return to the M3, M25 and M1, all equally delightful in their own way. By the time I get to the services at Leicester Forest East, I feel like one of the extras in “Return of the Zombie Twitchers”. Still, you forget the distance covered, and the discomfort, when you look at your life list. Soon be two hundred.

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