The brave young men from the High School who died defending their country have left relatively little behind them. Sometimes we have a few blurry photographs of school plays (the “woman” next to the teacher, and the boy in the middle of the very back row);
And sometimes we have a few blurry pictures of them in their uniforms:
We have some nice pieces of writing in the Nottinghamian magazine from Frank Corner and from John Walker. In the School Archives, John Grain’s school cricket blazer has hung on a hook there since 1936 and will hopefully continue to hang there until “towers cave in and walls collapse”. Whenever I saw it, I always thought that John could not possibly have imagined such a lonely fate for his blazer. No, he thought that one day in 1980. when he was 61 years old and a fat old man, he would come up to visit his old school and get them to dig out his old blazer and he’d then try it on. He’d say:
“Look! It almost fits me!”
And everybody would laugh and say:
“Why! You can’t even get it over your shoulders! You must have grown a lot of muscles in the last forty five years! Perhaps the army made you fitter!”
And then he’d go back to his grandchildren and tell them where he’d been that day, and what it was like when he was at school.
We have a couple of Keith Doncaster’s poems.
In addition, we also have a lovely picture of the Officers Training Corps in 1937, with Keith on the left hand end of the very front row, looking extremely youthful and nowhere near his calendar age:
Keith Doncaster though, is the only casualty from the Second World War, of around 125 men, of whom we have a cinefilm. It was originally for sale on the internet but it can now be watched for free on BFI-Player, courtesy of the BFI, the British Film Institute. The four-minute film is silent and rather blurred, but everything is recognisable.
The title is “Shenstone and Longmoor Farm May-July 1943” but most of it clearly shows Keith in the garden of the family house in Sandiacre, relaxing on leave in the early summer of 1943.
Keith is in full, impeccable, RAF uniform, his hair shining with the traditional Brylcreem. He is a very slight young man, looking much younger than his actual age:
And then you can turn it into a close-up:
Then we see him walking towards the camera:
Then he’s on the lawn scratching the cat’s ears,:
He’s walking around the lawn, and then sitting down on a garden bench:
His sergeant’s stripes stand out in a pale grey world. What must be his father is there, wearing his office suit and smoking a cigarette:
A very old couple is there too. They could be Grandma and Grandad, but equally, they may well be the gardener and the cook:
There are shots of what must be Longmoor Farm with cows. One of them is very tame and Keith can scratch the back of its head and neck just like a dog:
Back at Sandiacre, the humans are still a mystery. Keith is with an elegantly dressed woman that may be his mother:
Certainly Dad is there, this time without the hat:
Back on the farm there is a herd of cows in a field, then two calves are let loose in a field to scamper and chase each other like two dogs:
But who are the two men? The cowmen? Alas, we will certainly never know:
And one of the stills I produced is quite lovely:
One more blog post, before Keith Doncaster fades back into history.
The home movie is available at
and of slightly lower standards of presentation, at