Tag Archives: The Nottinghamian

Caretakers? The people who take care of us : Part Four

In 1935, ten years after that poor little fox was shot by Mr Hallam the School Caterer, Mr.Boot the lovable School Caretaker, was promoted to the post of “School Marshal” or “Porter”. The advertisement to fill his job as a mere caretaker attracted 1,475 applicants, a measure, perhaps, of the depths of the economic recession into which the country had been allowed to sink. Mr.Boot was then succeeded by Mr.Hubbuck, whom Mr.Reynolds was to call the “Beau Idéal” of caretakers.

During the 1930s, there had been a Porter’s Lodge next to the Western Porch, with a parlour, kitchen, scullery, three bedrooms and some cellars. Eventually, the cellars of the Porter’s Lodge became the School boiler house, and the parlour became a storeroom, where generations of caretakers brewed their tea, until Mr.Boot drank the very last cup, shortly before demolition in 1939:

west end of school

During the Second World War, in 1940, what might have been a very serious fire in the new West Block of the School was only prevented by the vigilance of the ever watchful School Caretaker, Mr.Hubbuck. It started in the Quartermaster’s Room, which later became the Book Room, right up in the roof, and soon spread to the N.A.A.F.I., later to become the Prep Handicraft Room. Mr.Hubbuck saw soldiers rushing up the stairs carrying buckets of water, and promptly called the Fire Brigade. Only minor damage was caused by the flames, but, typically, much more was done by the water from the Forest Road fire hydrants used to put them out. For months afterwards, the roof of that corner of the building had to be covered by a tarpaulin while it was being repaired.

Not long after this episode, the school became a sorting depot for troops who had survived the Dunkirk evacuation, and the South Notts Hussars departed, taking a large amount of stolen school equipment with them:

South-Nottinghamshire-Hussars-Badge_grande

On one evening in Arboretum Street, Mr.Hubbock came across a group of local youths who were stealing ropes from the gymnasium of the Girls’ High School. He got the ropes back by pretending to be a plain clothes policeman, but was astonished to find that the Army had left the school without even locking it. This, sadly, was minor fare by the standards of the military. Many large country houses commandeered by the Army had been picked completely clean of all valuables by 1945 and in some cases, the damage done was so extensive that the houses  had to be demolished.

In one edition of the “Nottinghamian”, Anthony R. Broome (1944-1950) reminisced about how….

“During the Second World War, lunch was taken in the School Refectory. I am quite sure providing food for energetic and growing boys during and after the conflict must have been a nightmare for those responsible. The fare provided could be described as reasonably acceptable to fairly awful. On one occasion a friend looked at his meat, winced, looked at me and said,  “That reminds me …I have not seen Mr.Ings’ dog this week.”

Mr.Ings was the caretaker and his dog was a large Alsatian. Sadly the remark was overheard by Miss Fraser, the Matron, who was supervising the lunch. She went berserk. A master appeared in an instant and we were sent outside where the untimely arrival of the dreaded Mr.Reynolds the Headmaster added to our discomfort. That afternoon we arrived home later than usual…and hungry as well.”

Fortunately, in Easter Term 1949, sweet rationing came to an end, to the great relief of Bill Boot, the then Caretaker, who was operating the Tuck Shop at the time.

In another edition of the “Nottinghamian”, Staff Member, Bill Neville, an ex-Head of Biology, reminisced about how Bill Boot had occupied the corner room which contained D.H.Lawrence’s carved initials, in the same corridor as the Staff Room.

“Bill Boot had been for many years the School Caretaker, and later became the School Marshal. The Caretaker’s House occupied the space between the West Block and what is now the Founder Hall. Where the Caretaker’s Bungalow now stands was an open space on which stood a hut, where the CCF Signal Section was housed. When the CCF Radio Net was started in 1951 (?), a radio station, complete with aerial mast was installed, to the considerable annoyance of the then caretaker, Mr. Ings, who protested that transmissions interfered with reception on his newly installed television (9 inch, black and white screen) -he may well have been one of the earliest members of the school to have a TV set. Certainly there was no set in the school for several years to come”.

Here are those famous initials of D.H.Lawrence, Schoolboy Vandal:

P1470269 ZZZZZZZ

These photographs now show the luxurious Caretakers’ Room which was newly constructed in the early 1950s. They were taken by that very popular teacher from the past, the Reverend Charlie Stephens:

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In December 1949, F.Martin Hall and John G.Golds celebrated Bill Boot’s birthday with the following poem which appeared in “The Nottinghamian”. It was dedicated to the ever popular figure of the school caretaker and although I have already quoted it in another blogpost, I make no excuse for repeating it. …

To Bill Boot on his 70th birthday

You are old, Father William, the schoolboy said,
And your tooth is of marvellous length,
Yet your tap on the door makes the whole building rock,
Where on earth do you find all that strength ?

In my youth, said the Sage, when I fought for the Queen,
Frequent exercise, Generals demanded,
I chased Kruger each morning around Spion Kop,
Do you wonder my muscles expanded ?

You are old, Father William, the schoolboy said,
And your hair has long since turned quite grey,
Yet your voice like a clarion round the School rings,
How d’you manage such volume, I pray ?

In my youth, said the Sage, when I served with Lord “Bobs,”
His commands could not travel by wireless
So I bawled them (in code) right across the Transvaal,
And my throat, by this means, became tireless.

You are old, Father William, yet your eagle eye
Seems as bright as the stars high in heaven,
Pray, how does your eyesight thus function so well,
With no help from Aneurin Bevan ?

I have answered your questions, the wrathful Sage said,
And as sure as my name’s William B.,
If you pester me further, my patience will go,
So be off, or I’ll put you in D.

(With apologies to Lewis Carroll. In the last verse it was considered impolite to suggest that Mr. Boot would actually threaten to kick anyone downstairs.)”

William “Bill” Boot was to retire in December 1950 after twenty-eight years’ service. He was replaced by Mr.T.H.Briggs, who had previously worked as a policeman in the city. Bill Boot had fought in the Boer War, and was famed for his rapid, shuffling gait, and his extremely rapid speech, which, with his accent, was frequently almost unintelligible. His hobby was fishing, and he travelled widely at weekends. When he retired, he received a small pension, but, alas, did not live very long to enjoy it, as he was sadly killed while crossing the road on December 7th 1952. Another victim, perhaps, of the “Curse of the High School Caretaker”.

The caretaker’s house, which was only a yard or two away from the entrance to the Founder Hall, was demolished in April 1965. This photograph shows the land during one of its many transition points:

no caretakers' house

The present day bungalow was built for Mr and Mrs Oldham, the School Caretaker and his First Lady. At the end of August 1976 though, poor Eric Oldham collapsed and died one sunny Saturday evening, as he walked round the school, locking up all the gates. Another popular man, the “Nottinghamian” described him as “one of the school’s most devoted servants and a warm hearted friend”:

mr oldham

Two memorable characters then appeared on the scene as School Caretakers. The first was Tony Hatcher:

tony hatcher

The second was Ray Eastwood. Together they were two of the nicest men I ever had the privilege to meet during my 38 years at the High School. Ray Eastwood was to retire as School Caretaker after many years’ valuable service, on Thursday, January 31st 2008.  He was an unfailingly nice man who always did his very best to be helpful. He always carried what appeared to be the largest bunch of keys in the world:

ray cccccccc

Neither Ray Eastwood nor his colleague, Tony Hatcher, will ever be forgotten by those who had the privilege of knowing them.

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Caretakers? The people who take care of us : Part Three

This is the third section of an eventual four, all of which tell the story of the remarkable characters who have worked as caretakers at the High School over the last 150 years.

In July 1950, Miss S.J.Webb, a teacher who was retiring after 23 years’ service in the Preparatory School for Boys from 7-11 years of age, had her “Memories of the Old Preparatory” published in the School Magazine:

“When I came in 1917, there were four Forms, 1A, 1B, 1C and 1D, and they occupied the four front rooms of houses No. 9 and No. 11, Miss Richmond was in charge and she and I lived in No.11. Mrs. Richardson was caretaker and as there was no dining hall, she provided dinner…for about twenty-two boys from the senior school. Her dinners soon became very popular, especially her puddings of which there always seemed an unfailing supply, and which were of a kind that usually finds favour with a hungry boy. The Prep. boys went home to dinner. This was possible as we had a very long dinner hour and in those days meat coupons had to be given up at each meal where meat was provided. Talking of caretakers, I can see old Holmes, caretaker of the big school, going down the steps and jangling a bunch of keys, calling out to the boys : “Doctor’s orders is . . .” (referring to Dr. Turpin, the Headmaster). His hobby was birds and his house seemed full of them:

m_budgie

He lived in the house now occupied by Mr.Ings on Waverley Mount, only it looked very different then. The Old Prep. was a very happy, busy, place and yet how leisurely compared with to-day! (1950)”

When Robert Holmes, the school’s eccentric and beloved caretaker, retired in the early 1920s, the following poem appeared in “The Nottinghamian”, in celebration of  an individual who was universally known as “Robert”. Almost totally deaf, and a great favourite of the boys, Robert was well-known for his poems, which he would pay to have printed, and then distribute himself around the school, to both boys and staff. In this way, for example, he celebrated the end of the Great War. Most unfortunately, few of his poems appear to have survived to the present day, although it may well be that the following effort, by “FROG”, is in the style of the great man. It starts by expressing the writer’s regrets at having eaten too many little cakes in Robert’s tuck shop:

TO ROBERT.

I.
Ah ! Robert, would that I could be
As free from pain as when
I had not yet gone on the “spree”
In thine enticing den!
When I did buy a penny cake.
And had a joyous chew,
I little thought that tummy ache
Would make me want to – – – – !
II.
And yet I curse my cruel fate
That I must parted be
From thee. O man of mighty weight
Who bid’st “good-day” to me
When up the steps of N.H.S.
At one past nine I race…..
Thou let’st me in, so heaven bless
Thy brightly beaming face,
III
In heat, in cold, in wet, in dry,
I hear thy morning bell
And sometimes if I’m lucky, I
Get in, and then all’s well:
But oft I’m late, and then, Ah Woe!
With fifty lines I’m vexed,
Or in detention have to go –
(Yes muse? Thank you for next.)

IV.
My muse forsakes me wherefore here
Mine eloquence I’ll stay;
Before I go away
May Allah ever champion thee,
And bless thy kind old heart —
Yes, Robert ? Doctor’s orders, eh?
All right, I will depart!

This cartoon of Robert appeared in “The Nottinghamian” in July 1922.  It was his job to ring the school bell:

ringing bell arly

In 1923, sadly, both Robert, the School Caretaker, and his wife passed on. Robert had always been a writer of very vivid letters, and, as we have seen, he wrote much poetry. This is how he celebrated the early days of the Cadet Corps…

“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.”

This seems to have been the only single one of Robert’s celebrated poems to have survived. It is extremely reminiscent of Pam Ayres, a very successful poet of the 1970s and 1980s.

During this period in the 1920s, many boys used the extensive rail network which criss-crossed the county at this time. Local stations included the Victoria Station, from which there was a long and tiring trudge up a never ending hill to the High School, firstly along Shakespeare Street and then up Waverley Street. Here is the long demolished station:

nottingham(c1903)victoria_old51

Quite often, the boys who were late would be able to hear the caretaker distantly tolling the school bell, and this event was later to be described by a great author,  D.H.Lawrence himself.  Another station which many boys used to use was on the far side of the Forest, at what is now the eastern end of Gregory Boulevard. Those boys could then make use of the many footpaths which came up the hill towards the school, around the back of the Church Cemetery. The “Train Boys” of course, were continually subject to the vagaries of the railway system, but, at the same time, they were famed for their ability to use this to explain away their extreme lateness, absence of homework etc. etc

cartoon of train boys

On the evening of Tuesday, June 16th 1925, a simply dreadful event occurred.  Mr.Hallam, the School Caterer, shot and killed a fox. the so-called “Mrs.Reynard”, and surely one of Nottingham’s first ever urban foxes. This cruel man provided a very sharp contrast with Robert Holmes, the Caretaker,who had loved all of God’s creatures.

The fox was a vixen who had been a particular favourite of the senior boys and who had introduced them to “unknown parts of the shrubbery”, in front of the school, where they had been able to take a keen interest in her activities. One prefect had even ruined his trousers by following her through the dense undergrowth:

Fox_009

One day, however, the fox went too far, and allegedly attacked the School Caretaker’s cat. The School Caretaker then asked Mr.Hallam, the School Caterer, for help, and the latter turned up one evening “in the playground armed to the teeth with a gun and two tame rabbits.” The staff and their wives, playing on the tennis courts, were then rather amazed to see Mr.Hallam leave the two tame rabbits on the lawn and await developments. Sure enough, the fox soon arrived, attempted to eat the rabbits, and was promptly shot dead.

The “Shrubbery” was a dense jungle of vegetation at the front of the school at this time. Nowadays, it has been opened up and gentrified somewhat, as the Lower Lawns. The jungle certainly appears thick enough to allow naughty boys, or naughty young men, to smoke a cigarette or two in there at break. This old postcard shows just how dense the foliage was:

front schoollll

This article will be concluded in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

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Caretakers? The people who take care of us : Part Two

This is the second section of an eventual four, all of which will tell the story of the remarkable characters who have worked as caretakers at the High School over the last 150 years.

When “Knolley” Knowles retired from his post as School Porter in 1898, his place was taken by Mr Robert Holmes, the brother of the Army Drill Serjeant, George Holmes. The latter, after long years of faithful service, was allowed to move into “Knolley’s” old house on Clarendon Street, but only on condition that he found accommodation for his brother, Robert Holmes, the new caretaker. He, therefore, moved Robert into the rooms which he himself had just occupied, but had been forced to vacate because of the terrible fumes from the heating system.

The recently retired “Knolley”, unfortunately, did not live very long to enjoy his hard earned retirement presents, a “handsome easy chair, and a case of silver spoons”. He died on Sunday, March 25th 1900 at his home at 36, Hartley Road. He was seventy-two years of age, and his real name, unknown to nearly everybody at the High School, was William Knowles Keach. The funeral took place at the Church Cemetery on Mansfield Road on Thursday, April 27th and was attended by Dr Gow, the Headmaster, and a number of senior teachers including Mr Corner, Mr W.E.Ryles, Mr Liddell and many of the senior boys of the school. There were many handsome wreathes and crosses in evidence:

cemetry

Mrs Rebecca Keach was to outlive her husband by several years. She eventually passed away in June 1911, at the family home in Hartley Road.

During the last few years of the nineteenth century Dr Gow would coach his Classical Sixth Form class to Oxbridge Scholarship standard, usually teaching them for four periods a day, keeping just one period free mid-morning for seeing parents:

dr gow

There was no telephone in those days. Visitors’ cards and telegrams were brought to Dr Gow during class teaching time by Robert Holmes, the caretaker. One telegram particularly amused both the great man and his class. “Dear Headmaster, Please tell the boys that Bovril says Mafeking is relieved”…a slick piece of advertising.

Just after the Great War, a short novel entitled “The Three Merles” appeared in the bookshops of the nation:

lozengeIt portrayed the High School at the turn of the century and had been written by a former pupil of the school, Richard St.Clair Page. Set in an imaginary school, just like the real one, the plot had a Mr.Lupton, and a Serjeant Holmes as its School Porter.….The book’s sergeant was new to the job, having  just been promoted from being caretaker in a warehouse in the town. Hence he was always very polite when he brought a message:

“Dr.Govan wishes to see Master Grier at the break”

When the newness began to wear off, “Master” before a small boy’s name would soon just disappear. The Doctor had called him “The Porter”, when he introduced him to the school after prayers the week before.

“Boys, I wish you to know Serjeant Holmes, the new porter of the school.” And the sergeant, with his medals shining very brightly, had saluted the whole school.

As a body the school resented him. He belonged to the new order of things, and the school thought it preferred the old times to the many new things which were being introduced.”

Now though, let’s meet the real High School’s real George Holmes, who was the school’s Drill Serjeant. He was responsible for:

“…the usual manual exercise and marching drill, bayonet exercise, sword drill for infantry and cavalry and Indian club exercise.”

In this photograph of the staff, taken possibly in 1885, he is sitting on the grass:

staff 17890

Every time I see that photograph, I can imagine the Rolling Stones using it as an album cover. Perhaps that’s what the unfortunate fold is. Damage caused by Mick Jagger.

In 1901, the school magazine, “The Forester”, decided once again to look back into the past. It published “A Memory” of old Mr Knowles, the long serving school caretaker, who had retired just three years previously, and who had recently died. “Knolley” had obviously been so well loved in the school that everybody wanted to remember him. They just could not let him disappear for ever. He had:

“a wonderful sense of humour and a stock of jokes. With what gusto he rang that bell so that you stopped up your ears at the deafeningness of it. When raking out the fires, with what quiet satisfaction he gave the finishing touch, a smart single rap of the poker on the bar ! Never did he cause irritation, he was universally liked.”

“What Old Boy cannot remember the occasions when, by forgetting his books, he has obtained the privilege of making an awesome journey, with Knowles as guide, through the mysterious Coal Hole?

Who cannot recall the many times when the front door has been held open by Knolley’s friendly hands while a frantic headlong rush up the front steps has just saved a punishment for lateness? Who after the heat of the game hasn’t refreshed himself with a glass of cold water or excellent herb beer at Knowles’ Lodge?”

Equally respected was his wife, Mrs Knowles, who:

“was as kind as a mother to small boys…if we had scratched a finger, fallen in the mud, bumped a forehead, or met with any other of a boy’s accidents.”

In December 1915, Robert Knowles, “Knolley”s brother, who had been appointed as caretaker in 1898, set up the Nottingham High School Pets’ Club which took place every Wednesday. He spoke to potential members for forty minutes at an inaugural meeting, and kept them enthralled by his enthusiasm for the subject, offering advice on the care of pets and how to purchase them:

caret

Old Boy, Roy Henderson, was later to speak about the school just before the Great War….

“Nobody was ever allowed inside the school during breaks, but it never seemed to rain! In any case, all the boys were always very keen to get out of the building. There were few amenities for the boys, including just six to eight cracked stone washbasins. There was a tuck shop, near the south eastern corner of the present day West Quadrangle. It was run by Robert, the School Caretaker. The small shop on Forest Road which boys at the end of the twentieth century called “Dicko’s” was at this time called “Baldry’s”, and it was a sweet shop. A female member of staff, a Mrs Digblair, lived in the rooms above it. She was one of the school’s first ever mistresses, and members of the Sixth Form loved to go and have tea with her.”

This superbly detailed view of the school was taken from an overflying biplane in 1921. Waverley Mount, bottom left, used to be called Clarendon Street, and the first house on the left as you walked away from the High School was the “Caretaker’s Cottage”. In the garden, just to the right, the white areas are, in actual fact, lines of washing which has been put out to dry. Presumably, this means that the photo was taken on a Monday morning. Notice the figures on the tennis court. They are surely waving to this mechanical marvel as  it passes overhead:

aerial

This article will be continued in the near future.

 

 

 

 

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Caretakers? The people who take care of us : Part One

This is the first section of an eventual four, all of which will tell the story of the remarkable characters who have worked as caretakers at the High School over the last 150 years.

When I first became a teacher, my Dad, who had spent most of his life doing exactly that same job, gave me some valuable advice. He asked me “Who is the most important person in any school?”

I gave him a list of likely candidates, but he dismissed them all as incorrect by some margin. The correct answer of course, was “The caretaker.” If there is no Head Teacher, it’s no problem, and lessons will go on. A teacher is missing, off sick? Somebody else will cover the lessons, no problem. No caretaker and the toilets are blocked? No school, we all have to go home!”

caret

I have found it more or less impossible, though, to create a complete list of High School caretakers over the last 150 or so years, because such men are quite simply not considered to be important enough to be remembered, unlike Headmasters, the names of which are all displayed on the wall behind the Reception Desk.

That is not to say, however, that the High School does not value its caretakers very highly. In school magazines such as “The Nottinghamian” and before that, “The Forester”, there are many affectionate reminiscences either by or about the school’s caretakers. And in these reminiscences, it soon becomes abundantly clear that the High School’s caretakers have always been very popular, well loved figures, especially with the boys.

William Knowles Keach was one of the very first caretakers, towards the end of the nineteenth century. His daughter provided some trips down Memory Lane from the period 1880-1883…

“My father, Mr.Keach, was the first caretaker of the School when it was moved to its present site in 1868 ; he remained until about 1890 : for some unknown reason, he was always known as Knowles, or by the affectionate nickname “Knolley”. He was initially employed by Lawyer Patchett , a leading Nottingham figure. My father was an expert at his work for which he received 13s. 0d. a week, but lost his pay during “wet time.”, that is to say, periods when rain forced him to wait inside for the weather to improve. Mr.Patchett suggested to my father that he should try for the job at the new school which was being built. Naturally, my mother was consulted, and she thought it “a good thing, Bill” since the wage was to be 18s. 0d. a week, plus house, coal and gas, with no loss of money in wet weather. Children, however, were frowned upon, but my father gave an assurance that there would be no trouble, and his application was successful. The caretaker’s house was at that time a part of the school building and consisted of a kitchen and parlour on the ground floor, a cellar and three bedrooms upstairs – one over the side door, another over the bay window, and the third over Mr Liddell’s classroom (later 4A room). I was born in this house in 1870, and lived there with my father and mother, three brothers and three sisters. The family did all the caretaking and cleaning in the school. My father was also responsible for the upkeep of the grounds and garden:

front schoollll

He did all the lawn mowing, and supervised the removal of the sandstone when the yard and gardens of to-day were excavated – no small task. In winter we helped him to clear snow from the paths. For general repairs a Mr. Rushworth was called in. He was known as “quarter-to-three” feet, on account of the way he walked!

In those days the school yard was all open country, with grass and gorse bushes. There was no wall on Forest Road, a street where windmills still stood or had perhaps only recently disappeared. There were no railings on Arboretum Street, just a rough fence. The grounds immediately around the buildings consisted of sandstone outcrops, loose sand and plantations of trees and shrubs, some of which were on the site of the present caretaker’s house and the present Music Room, though at a higher level. Here is some of that loose sand, still there in the 1930s:

one west

The Headmaster, Dr, Dixon, lived in the end house of Waverley Mount (then called Clarendon Road). This house later became part of the “Preparatory School.”, and was demolished to build the present building. The other part of the large house was occupied by Mr. Taylor, the veterinarian. Many years later the great “Drawing Room” with its barrel roof was built on top of the north wing, and our house had to be partly demolished to make way for it. The present caretaker’s house was then built. Mr.Tait was responsible for the erection, under Mr.Patchett’s direction, and Mr.Jelly was the joiner for the Drawing Room. There was a bit of jealousy between them about the cost.”

In 1880 a new and rather grand sounding Porter’s Lodge was completed to the south east of what is now called Waverley Mount. Previously, Mr.Keach, aka Mr.Knowles,  had lived with his family in a room at the southern end of the class-room corridor (near present day W2). As mentioned above, his wife had given birth to at least one baby in this rather cramped accommodation. Young Miss Keach appears to be the only baby ever born in the High School, unless, of course, somebody knows better….

Mr.Knowles, as School Caretaker, had the duty of locking up all the gates on Forest Road at 2.15p.m.  His greatest delight was to lock up just before the appointed time, and then beam at the small batch of boys who came running up from the Forest, where they had stayed to see the first horse race, which was generally timed to start at 2 o’clock. This meant their running round Waverley Street to another school entrance and a bad mark if they were late! Here is the Forest in the 1880s, looking down towards the horse racing course:

forest

Mr.Knowles was also remembered for the occasions when he would come to put extra coal on the huge coal fires which were used to heat every classroom. If the Master’s desk was sited in the correct position, “Knolley” was able to go up behind the Master with his dirty, blackened, coal encrusted hands and pretend to move forward and seize the Master’s often bald head, as if to leave black sooty handprints on it. This caused enormous merriment among the watching schoolboys.

This marvellous photograph shows the school at the end of the nineteenth century. Notice the many chimneys all contained in large chimney stacks, and all obviously requiring frequent injections of fresh coal. Notice also the three boys lounging at the corner of the building. Their companion is sitting on the edge of the tennis court:

west end of school

On Wednesday, December 21st 1898 the High School broke up for Christmas, and Mr.Knowles, now the School Porter, retired after thirty three years of service. The school prefects had organised a collection, and the boys of the school contributed over £33. This enormous sum of money was used to purchase a “handsome easy chair, and a case of silver spoons”. The balance, a total of twenty five sovereigns, was presented to Mr.and Mrs.Knowles by W.A.Blackwall and the other prefects, together with a beautifully illuminated address.

This article will be continued in the near future.

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Casualty rates in the Great War

Years ago I wrote a worldwide best-selling book about the history of football in the High School from 1870-1914.(Just kidding). In the foreword, I revealed the identity of the Old Boy who had won an Olympic Gold Medal for the United Kingdom at Association Football. I made public which Old Boy had scored more goals in a single F.A.Cup tie than any other player in the history of the competition. I listed the eight Old Boys who had played international football for England. I recalled the Old Boy whose refereeing in an F.A.Cup tie led the F.A. to introduce the concept of the neutral referee, an idea which has spread worldwide since that biased performance. I described an occasion when the High School goalkeeper let in the winning goal as a protest against the refereeing of the game, and the day when the referee refused to give a penalty because “penalty kicks were unknown in amateur football”. The reader could find out which team lost 0-13 and did not get the ball into the opposition half at any point during the game. In another fixture, against Nottingham Asylum, “the presence of so many lunatics unnerved the school team, for it did not come up to its normal form.”  I remembered the day when “The School Six defeated the Masters by three goals to one. The masters, who, like Hamlet, were somewhat “fat and scant of breath”, then demanded to play two fat men extra, to compensate for their want of nimbleness. This unfortunate challenge was accepted, and the School won again by ten goals to one.”

Overall,  this book provided many examples of extraordinary, and, indeed, often amusing events on the football pitches of Victorian and Edwardian England.

villa-cup

When I first started my researches, looking through issue after issue of, firstly, “The Forester’, and then “The Nottinghamian”, it seemed that this would ever be the case. Here was a football spectators’ paradise, where goals rained into the net in every single game, as Leicester Wyggeston School  were beaten by 23-0 on two separate occasions. Deadly goal poachers scored hat tricks past defenders made slow-witted by heavy leather boots, and referees, and their decisions, grew ever more eccentric by the year.

 

My suspicions, though, were initially aroused by the story of William Norman Hoyte who was at the High School from 1904-1913, when he won an Open Scholarship to Jesus College, Cambridge to read Natural Sciences. William represented his college at rowing and appeared in the Second May Boat. His studies, and his rowing, though, were interrupted by his military service as a Lieutenant in the Sherwood Foresters in the Great War. He was a very brave young man and won the Military Cross twice. When he returned to Jesus College in 1919, though, he was unable to continue with his rowing. After the appalling carnage of the Great War, William Norman Hoyte M.C. and Bar was Jesus College’s only remaining rower from the pre-war years. All the rest had been killed.

zzzzzz   Massengrab_

Morbid curiosity then caused me to wonder what were the eventual fates of those familiar names whose footballing deeds were recorded in perpetuity in their School Magazine, especially those who would have been of an age to have been sucked into the flesh shredding maelstrom of the Great War. where, on average, every single metre of trench was to be hit by a total of one ton of explosives. What I found, quite frankly, astounded me, and I do not feel that any reader, safe from harm, here at the beginning of the twenty first century, can begin to comprehend either the numbers of men involved in this war, or the enormous casualties which the nation suffered.

somme

During the Great War, for example, British forces lost 887,711 men killed and 1,663,570 men wounded. Of these 118,941 were officers. The British Empire had casualties of 1,244,589, with French deaths counted at 1,737,800. Italy lost 1,737,800 me killed and the Russians 3,394,369. Germany had 2,800,720 killed, the Austro-Hungarian Empire 2,081,200 and the Ottoman Empire 3,271,844. The United Kingdom lost as many as 2.20% of its total population, the French 4.39% and the Germans 4.32%.

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In individual battles, the loss of human life could be even more astounding. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, on July 1st 1916, the 8th Division lost 218 of its 300 officers at Ovillers in just two hours. Of 8,500 other ranks, 5,274 men perished. On this single day, the total casualties of the British Army were 57,470 men. German casualties were just over 300. In the first three days of the Battle of the Somme, the average daily casualties per division were 101 officers and 3,320 men. During the second week, 10,000 men a day were lost, and for the remaining four or five months of the campaign, casualty rates were in the range of 2,500 men per day. Overall, this battle was to cost the lives of 420,000 British and Commonwealth troops, with a total of 220,000 French casualties. German losses remain unknown but were at least 450,000, and may have reached 600,000. In the photograph below, the tiny squares are all graves:

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Nor is this necessarily an isolated set of statistics. In the Second Battle of Ypres, in April 1915, the 149th Brigade lost over three quarters of their complement, a total of some 42 officers and 1,912 men. The 10th Brigade more or less ceased to exist, losing 73 officers and 2,346 men. In the Third Battle of Ypres, between August and November 1916, British infantry repeatedly advanced against German machine gunners, with casualties totalling 244,897. On the second day of the Battle of Loos, twelve battalions, numbering some 10,000 men, attacked the German machine guns. In just over three hours, 385 officers were lost, along with 7,681 men. On July 31st 1917, when the 1/1st Hertfordshires attacked the Langemarck Line, every single officer was a casualty and eleven of them were killed. The other ranks suffered 459 casualties and drafts of men had to be made to rebuild the battalion. Not until May 1918 was the 1/1st Hertfordshire Regiment fully reconstituted by absorbing thirty officers and 650 men from 6th Bedfordshire Regiment. In the Battle of Aubers Ridge, General Rawlinson, irritated with the lack of progress, complained to his Brigadier-Generals,

“Where are the Sherwood Foresters ?  Where are the Sherwood Foresters? ”

Brigadier-General Oxley replied, “They are lying out in no-man’s-land, sir, and most of them will never stand again.” Many of these particular casualties, especially the Lieutenants and Second Lieutenants, may well have been Old Nottinghamians, but nowadays, there is no way of being any more precise than that.

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One thing of which we are certain is that Robert George Hopewell played in the High School First Team from 1897-1899. Robert was the son of Noah and Margaret Hopewell, of Old Basford and the devoted husband of Gladys Eleanor Hopewell.  They lived at West Brook in Mansfield, Robert was killed at Thiepval during the Battle of the Somme on September 3rd 1916, at the age of 33. A stretcher-bearer’s description of Thiepval in 1916 has survived to the present day…

“The trenches were knee-deep in glueing mud and it was the hardest work I have ever done…The banks on each side were full of buried and half-buried corpses and the stench was appalling. As one was carrying a wounded man down, one perhaps got stuck in the mud and staggered whilst one extricated oneself or was extricated. You put out a hand to steady yourself, the earth gave way and you found that you were clutching the blackened face of a half-buried German.”

Revelon, gefallener Deutscher

Nowadays, Thiepval is the scene of a huge memorial dedicated to those British soldiers who have no known grave. There are 73,000 names listed on it.

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Thomas Cripwell Wilson was an Old Nottinghamian who served as a Private in the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion. He was the son of Thomas and Mary Carr Wilson, of 5, Mount Hooton Terrace, Forest Road, just a five minute walk from the High School. Thomas was wounded in 1915, but returned to France in 1917.

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He was killed in action in November of that same year. His war could be described in equally frank terms…

“All those picturesque phrases of war writers are dangerous because they show nothing of the individual horror, nothing of the fine personalities suddenly smashed into red beastliness, nothing of the sick fear that is tearing at the hearts of brave boys…a thing infinitely more terrible than physical agony.”

The earliest High School football players to be involved in the Great War were four boys who played in the 1891-1892 season, namely Blackwall, Hadfield, Senior and Wallis.

Ten years later, the 1901-1902 season was to provide a full team, eleven brave individuals called Constantine, Cooper, Cullen, Emmett, Hore, Johnson, Marrs, Millward, Settle, Watson and Woollatt.

By 1913-1914, even more footballers were destined to risk their lives on the Western Front. They were now a full tem with a generous selection of substitutes, including Barber, Boyd, Cleveland, Fleet, Harlow, Hind, Lyon, Munks, Nidd, Page, Parr, Prince, Sadler, Taylor, Telford, A.G.Wilson and W.M.Wilson.

Old Nottinghamians, both footballers and non-footballers, volunteered in huge numbers for the Great War. At least one thousand five hundred boys and staff went willingly from a comfortable, safe, and usually well-off  family background in Nottingham, to what was arguably the bloodiest war in human history.

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Ancient initials carved a century ago

In the High School, there is a much vandalised stone mantelpiece over an old fireplace on the ground floor. Boys have carved their names on it well over a hundred years ago and the letters are only just beginning to disappear into the thick levels of gloss paint now used to cover the original stone. The fireplace is located between the General Office and the entrance to the Assembly Hall, so literally thousands of boys will have queued past it as they go into Morning Assembly.

On Wednesday, January 18th 1899, Thomas Ignatius Joseph Gillott entered the school. He was to leave during the course of his fourth academic year, in July 1902. Sadly Thomas died on Sunday, July 6th 1913, after a failed operation at the London Hospital. On that same day in 1899, his brother Bernard Cuthbert Gillott, also entered the school. He was destined to remain a pupil only until the end of that academic year and he left in July 1899. With the advent of the Great War, Bernard was to join the army, where he served as a Captain in the 6th Northamptonshire Regiment. A brave man, he won both the British Military Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. Eventually he was  severely wounded, but thankfully he survived, and he was invalided home to England.

On Tuesday, September 12th 1899, the youngest of the three brothers, Oswald Cornek Gillot entered the school aged nine. Oswald was born in Ripley on July 22nd 1890 and his father was Thomas Gillot, M.I.C.E., a civil engineer whose address was given as either, Upland House, Eastwood, or Langley Mill near Ilkeston.  Possibly towards the end of the Summer Term, 1905, Oswald carved his name on that extremely popular stone mantelpiece on the ground floor fireplace between the General Office and the Assembly Hall. Oswald left the High School in March 1907.

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Taking decent photographs of these carved signatures has in actual fact, proved extremely difficult. They are located on the northern side of the school where the usually tropical English sun does not often penetrate,  and they are surrounded by vast thick walls of stone and brick, with a singular lack of windows. This means that the whole area is more or less permanently dark from a photographic point of view. Added to this is the fact that in the century or so since these interesting acts of senseless vandalism were carried out, a succession of school caretakers, under the almost inhuman management pressure to hurry up that all school caretakers permanently face, have repainted the mantelpiece with a succession of layers of whitish gloss paint, all of them applied without having the time to remove the previous one. The stone therefore, now wears a building’s equivalent of an inflatable Sumo suit.
Consequently, I have been forced to Photoshop the pictures I took so that the now faint carvings stand out a little more clearly from the dimly lit and pale coloured background. One unfortunate young man, R.Salew, has proved completely impossible to conjure out of the camouflaging layers that now hide his signature. But he is definitely there.
Towards the end of the Christmas Term, 1904, John Francis Haseldine carved his name, in rather florid handwriting, on that same stone mantelpiece.

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John was born on December 28th 1886 and entered the High School on May 4th 1896, aged nine. His father was Frank Haseldine, a lace manufacturer of St.John’s Grove, Beeston. John was a very good footballer (soccer player), and made his début for the First XI on Wednesday, March 26th 1902, in an away game against Loughborough Grammar School. We know that the school’s best player, J.B.Sim, worked hard throughout the match, but, according to the School Magazine of the time,“The Forester”, he was “too carefully watched” by the Loughborough defence, and the game was lost by 0-2. That particular spring, John had been in the team which had won the Football Sixes, a six-a-side competition organised within the school by the boys themselves, with the teams all drawn out of a hat. It was taken, of course, extremely seriously. Coincidentally, the winning team’s captain was that very same J.B.Sim, who was a well-known High School footballer of that era, with more than fifty appearances for the First XI.
On Wednesday, February 14th 1903, John scored his only goal for the school, in a 4-1 away victory over Mansfield Grammar School, “a rather poor and one-sided game”. As an ever present in the team, John won his football colours at the end of this season and was also awarded a “Standard Medal” for Football . In season 1903-1904, he became Captain of Football.  John spent the Christmas Term of 1904 at the High School, but, like so many boys during this period, he left half way through the academic year in December 1904.
In the Great War John was a Major in the Royal Engineers, Special Reserve. He was Mentioned in Dispatches on June 3rd 1916 and received the Military Cross on January 1st 1917. By 1929, he was living at Northdene, New Barnet, in  the northern suburbs of Greater London.
Among the other more legible carved names are “A.E.Anthony” and “G.Devey”. What is apparently “R.Salew” is also there, although there are many, many  layers of gloss paint to obscure the lettering of this particular name, and the photo has not come out because of this. Another seems to read “B.Abel 1905-190” as if the young man had been interrupted, perhaps by a Master (teacher), as he came towards the end of his carving, and then did not ever return to finish the job.

Alfred Edward Anthony was born on June 12 1906, and entered the school on September 18th 1918, aged twelve. His father was F.W.Anthony of 120, Radcliffe Road, West Bridgford. He was the Managing Director of Gotham Co Ltd (apparently sic). Alfred left the school in December 1922.

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“G.Devey” was the elder brother of Reginald Devey, whose own name had already been carved on the fireplace upstairs, in the staffroom corridor, alongside that of D.H.Lawrence and L.S.Laver, the High School’s very own Latin Champion of the World.

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This ground floor effort though, was Gerald Bertil Devey, who was born on June 10th 1903,. Gerald entered the school on May 27th 1918 at the rather late age of fourteen. His father was James Edward Devey, a civil servant, and the family lived at 22, Ebury Road, Sherwood Rise. Gerald left the High School in July 1919.

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John Rylett Salew entered the school on May 4th 1916, aged fourteen. He left in December 1918. John was born on February 28th 1902 and his father was Joseph William Salew, an “agent” of 19, William Rd, West Bridgford.

Bertram Albert Abel was born on July 31st 1889 and entered the school on September 13th 1905, aged sixteen. His father was William Jenkinson Abel, a clerk to the Nottingham Education Committee. The family lived at 99, Waterloo Crescent, and Bertram left the school in July 1907.

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The fact that “S.Vasey” has carved his name in two different places on the stone, one of them complete with his own personal dates, namely “1917” and “1917-1922” shows not only that he had an extremely strong desire for immortality, but that, within the context of the High School, it has been fulfilled. He must have been a very swift, and fairly brazen, vandal.

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Stanley Vasey was born on June 5th 1905 and he entered the school at the age of thirteen, on September 18 1918. His father was Alfred Vasey, a shop inspector, and the family lived at 15, Glebe Road, West Bridgford. He left in December 1922.

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It is actually possible to best guess friendship groups among these carved names. Messrs Anthony, Devey and Vasey, for example, all joined the school in 1918. They all left in the latter half of 1922. They must surely have known each other. John Rylett Salew and Stanley Vasey both lived within a penknife’s throw of each other in the very posh Nottingham suburb of West Bridgford. Did the four boys seal their friendship by committing their names to the hard surface of that much painted fireplace ? Did three of them keep watch while the fourth scratched his name into the welcoming stone ?

The other names on the fireplace, some of them extremely indistinct, include “F.B.Ludlow”, “N.G.Peet”, “Littler”, “Meigh” and “Holmes”. The latter was possibly the George Chudleigh Holmes who was a regular player in the First XI football team during the 1902-1903 season. Born on June 15th 1887, George entered the school on January 17th 1900, aged twelve. His father was George H.Holmes, a Lace Manufacturer of Gregory Street, Old Lenton. George left at Easter 1903, perhaps once the football season was over.

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Fred (sic) Ball Ludlow was born on April 28th 1891. He entered the school on May 1st 1900 aged   nine. His father was William Ludlow, a clerk in the Gas Depôt. The family lived at 10, Willoughby Avenue, Lenton in the western suburbs of the City. Fred left in June 1907.

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Noel George Peet was born on December 26th 1901 and entered the High School on April 26th 1917, aged fifteen. His father was William George Peet, a “general agent”, and the family lived at 413, Mansfield Road. Noel left the school in July 1919. Perhaps he was a relative of Mrs.Mary Peet who was the school’s nurse during the late 1970s and the 1980s.

Samuel Littler was born on May 16th 1891. He entered the school on September 16th 1903 aged twelve. The family lived at 8, Appleton Gate, Newark-on-Trent, and his father, a veterinary surgeon, was also called Samuel Littler. Samuel junior left in July 1908.

Vincent George Meigh entered the school as an Agnes Mellers scholar on September 12th 1899 aged ten, the cost of his place in the school automatically paid for. His father was George Meigh, a schoolmaster of 3, Willoughby Avenue, Lenton. Vincent left in December, 1903.

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On the mantelpiece, one set of letters to set the heart a-flutter is “(illegible)BALL  1900-1907” , but this cannot be the famous air ace, as there are clearly a fair number of letters before the B-A-L-L. In any case, Albert Ball did not stay long in the High School, being expelled after an incident when he disrupted school assembly by emptying a large bag of bullseyes, gobstoppers and bouncing sweets onto the floor.

Best fit is probably Oliver Herbert Ball, who was born on August 13th 1891. He had entered the school on January 17th 1900, aged eight, as the third of three brothers. Oliver was to leave in July 1907. His mother was called Emma, and his father was Alfred Holmes Ball, the “Laundry Man” of “Sunnyside”, Daybrook, Notts.  Presumably, this was the company which was eventually to become the massive “Daybrook Laundry”.’ It was situated opposite the Home Brewery on the Mansfield Road, and was only recently demolished during the first decade of the twenty first century. The Arnold branch of the “Aldi” supermarket chain has now been built on this site during the latter part of 2014. It was open for business by the end of the year. Look for the orange arrow:

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During the Great War, Oliver Ball was to serve as a Second Lieutenant in the 10th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment.  Aged only twenty five, he was killed on September 28th 1916 and is buried in the Guards’ Cemetery at Lesboeufs in France. Oliver’s  death was part of the Somme offensive.  He shares the cemetery with 1,492 identified casualties, and a grand total of 3.136 men.

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Oliver Ball’s elder brother was Walter William Ball, the second son of the three, and himself an Old Nottinghamian. Walter had returned to the Western Front, and the Yorkshire Regiment, from his leave in Nottingham on Friday, November 19th 1915. The “Nottingham Guardian” reported his death on Monday, November 29th 1915. He had apparently been shot through the head by a sniper while organising a firing party with his captain. The tragic news was communicated to his parents by his younger brother, Second Lieutenant Oliver Ball, who held a commission in the same regiment. According to the “Nottingham Guardian”, Walter was “well-known in Nottingham and had a large circle of friends”. He had received his commission as a Second Lieutenant a mere twelve months previously. Walter is buried in Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension in France, Plot 1, Row A, Grave 21. He was 28 years of age.

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As far as I can trace, the third brother seems to have survived the war.

One of the more notable objects on the mantelpiece is perhaps the school badge which has been carved relatively large, and in primitive style, with the lozenge and the three merles or heraldic blackbirds still recognisable even now, the best part of a century after it was executed by some unknown, juvenile artist.

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Less time proof perhaps, are the boys who managed to carve only their initials, namely “JL”, “MV”, either “WA” or “WR”, and either “BFW” or “SFW”. It is just so difficult to be certain about whose initials they might be. In some cases, there are literally dozens of possible candidates in the school registers, and it becomes almost a pointless effort to try and guess who has carved them.

Some boys seem to have been able to make only part of their name legible. We appear to have, therefore, a group of letters which seems to spell “H-LLF”.

Similarly, I have tried so hard to turn “—-NGTON” into Victor George Darrington, one of the very few young men to have captained the school at both football and rugby. The time is right (he entered the school in 1909, aged twelve) but the fact is that the blurred and multi-layer gloss paint painted-over obscured letters just do not look like they were ever meant to spell Darrington.

Even more striking is the young member of what is probably the “Chambers” family who did not manage to carve his initials clearly. The name can be seen just above “A.E.Anthony”, although the letters seem to be an even whiter shade of pale.  Just a cursory perusal of the school registers reveals the existence, between 1897 and 1926, of “E.Chambers”, “W. Chambers”, “P. Chambers”, “N. Chambers”, “J.F. Chambers”, “J.S. Chambers”, “A. Chambers”, “C.G. Chambers”, “J. Chambers”, “B.J. Chambers”, “C.C. Chambers”,  “S.H. Chambers”, “D.B. Chambers”, and a second “W. Chambers”

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No doubt a really thorough search would reveal even more members of the apparently vast Chambers clan.
It would be nice to think, though, that the perpetrator was the (uninitialled) Chambers of Form IVb, whose doings are reported in the Prefects’ Book for Thursday, February 1st 1912….

“…A meeting was held before afternoon school, Towles and Haubitz (prefects) being absent. Chambers (IVb) had been reported for carrying a loaded revolver in his pocket. He admitted the offence, and produced the weapon, which proved to be loaded in four chambers. He was requested not to bring it to school again, and the School Captain decided to interview the Headmaster.”

Most unfortunately, no record has survived of the outcome of this conversation. Here again, it is possible to guess at putative friendships between the names in the stone. Two of the boys, for example, Fred Ball Ludlow and Oliver Herbert Ball, both joined the school in 1900, and their entries are virtually next to each other in the School Register. Perhaps the use of the surname of one as the middle name of the other hints at a blood relationship, rather than just one of mere friendship.
Coincidentally, a third name on this single ancient page of the school register is that of Harold Binks, who entered the school in the very same year of 1900, although Harold was never to carve his own name on the fireplace. From his reminiscences, published in April 1935, we know that one of his best friends in the Senior School was called Ball. It seems likely too that another of the friends was Oswald Cornek Gillot, who was already in the school when Ludlow, Ball and Binks arrived. All these boys were of the same age, and they all left the school in the latter part of the academic year 1906-1907. As we have already noted, Gillot lived near distant Ilkeston, but Holmes lived in Gregory Street, Old Lenton, very close to Ludlow and Meigh who themselves both lived in the same street, namely Willoughby Avenue, Lenton. Again, we can imagine two keeping watch while the third one carried out the evil deed with his penknife.

On Thursday, June 7th 1917, just  ten years after carving his name on the stone fireplace, Oswald Cornek Gillott was killed at the age of twenty six, yet another hapless victim of the Great War. Even a school as small as the High School (400  pupils) was to provide some three hundred young men, all destined to die well before their time.

After he left the school, Oswald moved to Teesside, and became a twenty year old apprentice mechanical engineer living at 2, Woodland Terrace, Borough Road, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire. When the Great War came, Oswald joined the 68th Field Company of The Royal Engineers. They trained at Newark-on-Trent before sailing from Liverpool for Gallipoli at the end of June 1915. They remained at Lala Baba in Suvla Bay until December 19th and 20th 1915, when they withdrew and returned to Egypt by the end of January. Oswald was recorded as having been wounded during this period. In June 1916 the Division was ordered to France to reinforce the Third Army on the Somme. By July, they were in the Front Line and took part in the fighting at Thiepval. In early 1917 they were fighting on the Ancre, and then moved north to Flanders for the Battle of Messines
Messines_Ridge_from_Hill_63 cccccccSecond Lieutenant Oswald Gillott’s last day on Earth was June 7th 1917, coincidentally no doubt, the first day of the successful attack on the Messines Ridge.  The assault was preceded by the detonation of nineteen large mines, in what was described at the time as “the loudest explosion in human history”. Oswald, as a member of the Royal Engineers, may well have been involved in this activity when he was killed. On the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website there are a mere three pages of Gillotts, with only thirty two men of this name killed. Oswald Gillott lies in the Messine Ridge British Cemetery in Mesen, West-Vlaanderen in Belgium along with the 577 of his colleagues whose remains have been identified.

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Second Lieutenant Gillott, aged twenty seven was one of a trifling 24,562 casualties, as the British under Field Marshal Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer, 1st Viscount Plumer, GCB GCMG GCVO GBE slowly began to learn how to fight battles at much lower costs than previously. (Battle of the Somme, 623,907 dead).

The other side of the coin, of course, is the fact that if the Field Marshall and his lordly colleagues are not much more careful with the lives of their social inferiors, they will risk actually running out of men. The  623,907 men killed in the Battle of the Somme is a catastrophe, but the apparently much lower figure of 24,562 killed during the assault on Messine Ridge could well be regarded as every single man in a town the size of, say, present-day Arnold or Newark-on-Trent.

One set of initials I have not dealt with. That is F.C.Mahin, one of the High School’s very few Americans, and I will talk about his incredible and hitherto completely unknown life in another blog post.

 

 

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