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 High School, to have immediately joined the army, trained as officers, gone to the Western Front and then been killed. But you would be wrong. This time, it was only three dead out of twelve though, and this represents a much better casualty rate than the rugby team of Boxing Day, 1913. On the other hand, though, it is still a staggering 25%!
On the back row of the photograph are, from 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, from 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.
In 1915, the High School, according to the anonymous writer of some reminiscences about school life at the time, was a place:
“…dominated by the War and its effects. Masters disappeared and were replaced by women teachers, the Officer Training Corps underwent intensive training, and the School Flag seemed to be constantly at half-mast for Old Boys, many of whom had left us only a few months before.”
Only a year earlier, before August 1914, the O.T.C. had been poorly equipped and they frequently complained of the lack of equipment, both rifles and bayonets. Over the course of the war, however, the O.T.C. was to take on a much greater importance. According to the “History of the Corps”, written fifty years later by a member of staff, Mr.A.G.Duddell:
“By 1913 the O.T.C. had become a well-established organisation in the school, and while it had exchanged its picturesque uniform, of which the wide-awake hat with green puggaree and plume of black feathers was a striking feature, for the more conventional khaki tunic with flat peaked cap, knee-breeches and puttees, it had also become a contingent of the Officers’ Training Corps (Junior Division)…The reality of war brought a great increase in numbers, and gave urgency to the training ; parties of cadets were taken for camps at Barton-in-Fabis and field exercises were carried out on the Gotham Hills. Field Days then, and for many years after, were held at Ramsdale Park, and as no transport was available in the early days, much of the time, and energy, was used for the five mile long march out and back. Later the position was eased, but at first only by special trams between the Forest and Daybrook Square. Another handicap of those earlier days was the state of the School playground, the surface of which consisted of the raw sandstone rock, with a covering of loose sand. Uneven at all times, from dust in dry weather, it became a quagmire after rain.”
The senior officers in the O.T.C., Mr Leggett of the Preparatory School and Mr Lloyd Morgan, were among the first to join up in 1914, becoming Captain and Lieutenant, in the 11th Service Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters and the 2nd Battalion of the Cambridgeshire Regiment respectively. The school magazine hoped that:
“they will both have a “smack” at the enemy and return safely again.”
Ironically, Messrs Leggett and Morgan had been the two prime movers in favour of the school’s switch from football to rugby in December 1914. Here is one of the oldest photographs of a school rugby team that I have been able to find. It was taken around 1924:
Presumably, if they had got to the Front in time, Messrs Leggett and Morgan would have been able to encourage the soldiers during the Christmas Truce to forget the football and play rugby across no-man’s-land.
As soon as they left, the O.T.C. was taken over by Captain Hood, assisted by Mr Kennard. I could not write a biography of Captain Hood, but I can recount one or two occasions when his name was on people’s lips. He had come to the school in 1908 as a teacher of Chemistry, or “Stinks” as it was nicknamed at this time. Mr Hood’s own nickname was “Freddy”, although I have been unable to trace his real first name. After three years in charge of the O.T.C., he finally received his very own chance to have “a “smack” at the enemy”, although by now it was a rather unsporting enemy who was using phosgene, chlorine and any other “Stinks” that could kill human beings in large numbers. Luckily though, the call came as late as July of 1918 so the chances are that Captain Hood may not have seen a lot of action during his spell with the Royal Engineers. A more sinister interpretation would be that when the Royal Engineers sent for somebody with a degree in Chemistry, they themselves were the ones trying to manufacture poison gas in larger quantities and at a faster rate than the Germans:
In 1925, the School was feeling the financial pinch and seems to have been, on occasion, extremely strapped for cash. Mr Hood, along with Mr Betts, offered to install electric lighting in part of the school while their classes were taking examinations. The offer was eagerly accepted, presumably in the days before that fateful phrase, “Health and Safety” had quite the ring to it that it has now.
A few years later, Mr Hood must have become a pastoral tutor, since, on Monday, July 6th 1931, in an effort to improve the general behaviour of one Burton of 2C, he put in him detention for receiving “too many detentions”. On Tuesday, April 5th 1932, Mr Hood, accompanied by Mr Houghton, took a group of thirty boys to visit the Home Brewery in Daybrook. They saw the entire brewing process, from barley to the finished product. At the end of the visit, the boys were given sandwiches and soft drinks, while the delighted teachers “sampled the real stuff”:
In July 1946, Mr Hood retired after decades of service to the school. After 38 years as a dedicated teacher, his departure was marked in the school magazine by a warm tribute and farewell which lasted for just a line and a half of print, and must have been quite a bit short of one word for every year.
Second Lieutenant J.L.Kennard had the first name Joseph. He had come to the school in November 1910, and had previously been a teacher in Switzerland. He was a famous sportsman, having captained Lancashire at rugby, and having played for the North of England in an England trial. Here he is, on the left, with Mr Onion the groundskeeper and the First XV after the Great War in 1926-1927:
Inside the classroom, Mr Kennard was a teacher of Modern Languages and his nickname was “Guts”. When Mr E.P.Gaskin, the Head of Languages, retired in July 1927, he was succeeded by Mr Kennard. Around this time, Mr Kennard became the Housemaster of Mellers.
When war again came knocking at the school doors in 1939, the school had enormous difficulties carrying on with the ordinary day-to-day teaching because a large number of classrooms were being used by the men of the South Notts Hussars. By the Spring Term of 1940, Mr Kennard, along with Mr Duddell, came up with an emergency schedule, which allowed a full timetable of lessons to be taught, although every form had to spend one day per week at the Games Field, with normal classes in the mornings and then games in the afternoon:
The masters, who in many cases were forced to commute the mile and a half between the main school and the Games Field by bicycle, were somewhat less than happy with this situation. In 1941 when Mr Goddard retired, Mr Kennard was appointed Second Master. He had himself retired as the school rugby coach in 1939, although he was soon forced to resume these duties at the age of sixty by the absence of younger members of staff who were away in the forces. Mr Kennard finally retired in 1947. After a splendidly long retirement, he died on Sunday, January 5th 1969, at the age of eighty-seven, after a short illness:
“sentiment had little place in his character, and his guiding principles were devotion to duty, loyal service and firm discipline”
Second Lieutenant L.R.Strangeways had come to the High School in 1908 as just Leonard Ralph Strangeways. He was a teacher of Classics and had been educated at Sheffield Royal Grammar School:
By late 1916, he was helping to produce food for the starving population of a U-boat beleaguered Britain:
“An area of some three quarters of an acre was cultivated by the boys at Woodthorpe. Despite being a “very uncompromising clay dump”, it was eventually to produce much fresh food. One member of staff, Mr Strangeways, a Classics teacher, dug so energetically that he “not only shattered one spade in sunder, and so bent another that it was impossible to discern which side was which, but also succeeded in unearthing an ancient Roman broom.”
Two years later, in January 1918, “The Highvite” carried the humorous story about two prefects and one teacher:
“Barton, Bird and Co Ltd. had an advertisement for poisons, the quality of which was endorsed by Mr Strangeways.”
Mr Strangeways left the school in 1918. He went to Bury Grammar School where he was Headmaster from 1919-1936. The school still has its Strangeways Library.
In my next blog post about this photograph, I will try to find out what happened to the boys in the years after it was taken.