Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

Fred goes to Lincoln Cathedral

Towards the early part of his career in the Royal Air Force, probably in the winter of 1941-1942, Fred was stationed for a short period at Cranwell, the RAF College. Cranwell is a very imposing place:

This episode took place at the very start of his stay there, when, in his first period of free time, Fred decided to go out on a visit somewhere.

It was a glorious, cold, clear, bright blue, frosty day, and Fred went out of the front gate of the camp accompanied by a friend. It’s difficult to miss the gates at Cranwell:

Seeing a local man pushing his bike along the road, Fred asked him the way to Lincoln, but instead of offering directions, the man just stretched out his arm and pointed along the road, which was a Roman one, and absolutely straight, to the distinctive shape of the cathedral, silhouetted sharply against the bright light of the sky. Lincoln Cathedral is on a high hill, surrounded by a flat landscape, so it is fairly difficult to miss:

The man said not a single word but just carried on trudging along with his bicycle. Fred and his friend, armed with the usual 24 hour pass, set off cycling along the road to Lincoln.

This initially unnamed friend may well have been Joe Fielding, a highly educated man who had studied, among other things, Latin at Oxford University.  The two young airmen were taken around the cathedral by one of the amateur guides, who had many interesting things to explain to them. When they reached the shrine to St Hugh, at the eastern end of the cathedral, near the altar, the guide told them all about the life of the saint, and his pet swan, but he confessed that, as a modestly educated working class man, he was unable to translate the Latin inscription on one of the metal tablets near the altar. Joe, however, with his degree level knowledge of Latin, proceeded to translate the inscription fluently.

The guide though seemed to be really, really, upset. Fred felt that, while Joe’s behaviour was perhaps the product of innocent helpfulness, he should rather just have kept his mouth shut, and let the guide remain the expert. Fred was certainly highly embarrassed by the whole affair.

As one of the coincidences that fill all our lives, Fred was to pass away on the very same day that I myself took a party of schoolboys to visit Lincoln Cathedral. I was able with ease to find that single plaque written in Latin, unchanged in the sixty or so years between the two events.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Personal

Warren Herbert Cheale

Warren Herbert Cheale, who lived with his family in Burton Joyce, moved to the High School in January 1944 to work as an Acting Pilot Officer with the School Flight of the Air Training Corps. He was a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve:

RAF

On Thursday, September 7th 1944, while away at camp at Wenlock in Shropshire with the boys from the High School A.T.C., poor Warren was killed in a flying accident. He was only 44 years of age.  He left a widow and a teenage son and daughter. Despite his short stay at the High School, one of the boys described him as “one of the nicest people we had ever met”.
Warren, who was born in the first three months of 1900, seems to have been quite a colourful character. He lived originally at a house called Redhill in St. Helen’s Crescent. Hastings, in Sussex and the first mention of him that I can find seems to be at the age of three when, on November 28th 1903, he played the important part of Bubbles in a local production of Little Red Riding Hood:

little_red_riding_hood_and_wolf1

Not very long afterwards, Warren joined up for the Great War and eventually found himself in the Royal Flying Corps.

During this era, British pilots were not allowed to wear parachutes, so Warren must have thought his death was imminent when he was involved in a mid-air collision at an altitude of over two thousand feet. The two planes must have either spun or perhaps fluttered down to earth, though, because Warren escaped with his life. That life, however, was perhaps affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to some extent. It is difficult to imagine that anybody could go through an experience like that and remain completely unaffected.

Fokker-DVII-Crash

On July 29th 1925, Warren married Alice Elisabeth Unwin at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London.

Warren then seems to have remained in the new Royal Air Force, because the next mention seems to be in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer (Hastings, East) for June 28th 1930. Listed as a mechanic, he appeared in the local magistrates’ court, along with a young friend, who lived in the School House, North Street, Hornchurch. Both were found guilty of damaging a crop of rye in a local farmer’s field, a rather bizarre mark to leave on the pages of history, perhaps.

Certainly from 1931-1934, Warren continued to live in Hastings and St Leonards, presumably with his wife. It was a lovely place:Hastings_english_school_xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx1

Warren played local cricket, both as a batsman and a bowler, although life did not always go well. For whatever reason, his wife Alice Elizabeth filed for a divorce at the London Divorce Courts in 1936. The divorce may not have gone through, because the report contains the annotation, [wd] which may well have meant “withdrawn”.

Perhaps the family then moved northwards to Nottingham as a new start, hoping to put their marital difficulties behind them for the sake of the children.

Alas, we will never know, because 21 PAFU ORB reported on that fateful September evening:

“Flying accident at Wheaton Aston. An Airspeed Oxford LX509, with Flight Lieutenant Harrison as instructor, and Pilot Officer Cheale (Air Training Corps) took off for a night flying test from Wheaton Aston and was seen to dive into the ground shortly afterwards. Both occupants were killed instantly as a result of injuries sustained.”

Here is a general map showing the location of Wheaton Aston airfield:

wheaton aston

At the time, the Airspeed Oxford was considered to be, potentially, a rather dangerous aircraft to fly:

Airspeed_Oxford

Although designed as a twin engined trainer, and supposedly extremely docile, it could be, in actual fact, a rather unforgiving aeroplane.  Many aircraft used in RAF Training, of course, were well past their sell-by date and poorly maintained. These factors may well all have been contributory to the deaths of these two men. In actual fact, in the North Midlands, during the course of the Second World War, the majority of fatalities occurred in either Airspeed Oxfords or another old stager, the Vickers Wellington bomber. To help the situation, Oxford trainers were painted a conspicuous yellow:

Airspeed_Oxford_V3388_yellow

The crash location on the Accident Card for this particular incident is given as:

“At Colonels Covert?, Hatton Grange, Ryton. Map Reference OS765036, just south of Hatton Grange, to the north of Ryton and just south west of RAF Cosford”.

Here is a map which shows Hatton Grange:hatton

The verdict of the official  inquiry was that:

“It is not possible to form a conclusion. Investigation has not revealed the cause of the accident.”

The crew of the Oxford were:

“Flight Lieutenant Sydney Donald Harrison, aged just twenty one. He is buried in (St Ediths) Churchyard, Church Eaton, Staffordshire. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on February 5th 1943.

Sydney  was the beloved only son of Mr and Mrs Donald Harrison, Two Trees, Hernes Road, Oxford and the grandson of Mr and Mrs T E Clarkson, The Villa, Rancliffe, near Goole.

Pilot Officer Warren Herbert Cheale (177869), RAFVR, was aged forty four. His death is commemorated at the Nottingham Crematorium. No next of kin was given at the time.”

When application for a ‘Grant of Probate’ for Warren’s will was made, his address was listed as 123 Church Drive, Burton Joyce, Nottinghamshire. This is the Main Street in that lovely village:

18679784

Interestingly, when Probate was granted on February 13th 1945, it was not to Alice Elizabeth, his presumed wife from the 1930s, but to “Rose Cheale, widow”. Perhaps that divorce had actually gone through in 1936, and this was Warren’s new wife.

Two men had paid dearly, therefore, for the High School Flight of the Air Training Corps’ week long stay in Shropshire for their annual training.  They had been accompanied by at least one member of the academic staff, Mr D.C.Whimster, who was a Master at the school from 1939-1945. He was Form Master of the Fifth Form A, and may have been a teacher of English. In reminiscences published in the school magazine, the writer says, talking of drama productions:

“I wish the Society would tackle “The Knight of the Burning Pestle” again, with its greater resources and experience. Mr. D. C. Whimster’s production was interesting and creditable.”

The High School cadets were also accompanied by a person named in RAF reports as Pilot Officer Alder (Air Training Corps). This may have been somebody who normally worked at Wenlock, but I strongly suspect that this is a mis-spelling of the name of a second member of staff, namely Mr S.Allder who worked at the school from 1940-1946. As his name was “Stanley”, the boys, ever inventive, apparently called him “Stan”.

And so Warren Cheale’s extraordinary luck came to an end. In the Royal Flying Corps in 1918, he had somehow managed to avoid what must have seemed to him, as he fell earthwards for thirty seconds, perhaps a minute, a horrific and unavoidable death.

But this time, almost thirty years later, the Gods of the Air had claimed him as their own:

aerspeed

 

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

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:

onexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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:

EastwoodShops4s zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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:

T0Badge-Front

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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Filed under Football, France, History, Nottingham, The High School