Thursday, December 21, 2006

Trent College - note 20 December 2006

Dad was at Trent College, apparently, between the ages of 13 and 18. There he learned to play hockey, as he recalled, pinching his older sister Pam's hockey stick. He would play hockey until at least the age of 45 (i recall him playing at Harrison Park, probably in 1968) and I gather that he was on trial, at least, for Nottinghamshire Colts. he liked Trent because they did not just insist on sport, he told me, as they had a spinney and encouraged other outdoor pursuits.

Although Trent College was in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, it was near the Nottinghamshire border. I have been looking at the College website to day, and have lifted and edited this excerpt:

In 1892, the Evangelical College and School Company Ltd. (established by Francis Wright’s surviving family) took over as Trustees of Trent College and remained its Directors until November 1966 when the School became Trent College Ltd.

In 1901, Rev G.J.S. ‘Daddy’ Warner joined Trent College as Chaplain and later, Second Master. His was an immensely important contribution to the School, spanning 64 years.

1914 saw the outbreak of the First World War. Of the 531 Old Tridents who served their country, 94 were killed; it was a matter of great sadness for the School.

Tucker was succeeded in 1927 by Headmaster Geoffrey Bell. Trent was about to face the Great Depression, which meant that Bell was restricted in the developments he could carry out at the School. However, during Bell’s Headmastership, the Warner Library was opened (1929) as well as the Cricket Pavilion (1933). Bell was held in high regard by the boys at Trent and was seen as a forward-thinking man, even though the School’s finances were less progressive.

Bell also oversaw Trent’s great unbeaten rugby 1st XI sides of 1932-33 and 1933-34, which included the now-famous Prince Obolensky, who went on to play for Oxford and England and is still remembered as one of the country’s finest rugby players.

Bell left Trent in 1936 for a new Headmastership at Highgate and was succeeded by Ford Ikin, who reported being appalled by the dilapidated state of the buildings that greeted him on his arrival at Trent.

Ikin immediately set about persuading the governors to spend money on sanitation, new beds and decoration, as well as removing the gas lighting that had been criticised in an inspection in 1929. The School was dramatically improved and filled to its capacity.

However, another crisis loomed. Weymouth College, also owned by the Evangelical College and School Company Ltd. was in financial crisis. Ikin received a letter from the Chairman of the Governing Body advising that none of the Masters’ salaries could be paid at the end of the Michaelmas term. He was then advised that both Trent and Weymouth Colleges would have to close as the bank could no longer support their £20,000 overdraft.

As the Headmaster of a modernised school with a full roll, Ikin persuaded the Governors to allow him to contact B G Catterns, a former pupil and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. Catterns encouraged the bank to give Trent a year to sort out its difficulties. The decision was made to close Weymouth College and concentrate on Trent. The immediate crisis was over and Trent was saved.

Despite the losses of World War Two, these were happier years for Trent. ‘Daddy’ Warner continued to be a central figure, held in affection by everyone who knew him.

Dad told me little else about the school, itself, its dilapidation, or the financial crisis (he was probably unaware of this). He did say that when he arrived he was the smallest boy in the class (or the school??), until another boy, even smalle, came along. They got his name wrong and he was known as "The Class Bongey". I would have been appalled by this, but he seemed quite amused.

One other recollection is that when he was going off to the school, his father simply said "be a good scout", and that was it.

I may email the College's Trent Association, to see if there is anyone who recalls Dad. A long shot, because they would now be 84-85, but worth asking!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My sister recalls - 19 December 2006

My sister called round today and I explained about this blog. She has few memories of Dad talking about wartime, but he did talk about his childhood holidays - something I need to cover separately.

He had told her too about the incident shooting up the van. We think it must have weighed heavily on his mind - would it have made any difference to the war had he left the van alone? And was the van any threat to him? I doubt that we will ever know, but it was one of the many dilemmas of war. A mark of the great decency of the man that he related this story with sadness rather than relish the fact that he had been successful in pursuing this target.

She said that he had made a firescreen while in the hospital - part of rehabilitation. It was based on stitching. I don't recall him having such a skill later on, or being much good with his hands - something I have inherited!

She had no memory of the court-martial, but her husband said that if your plane crashed you might well be court-martialled for failing to bring it back to base. Guilty unless you could prove yourself innocent!

There are entries for his war record that my other sister has, but these are incomplete and in code, apparently.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mum's memories of wartime - and some of my recollections - 9 December 2006

Mum called round today and related various memories about Dad.

She said that he went to a private fee-paying school in or off Osborne Road in Wallasey (off Seabank Road). This would accord with the memory I have, that he would go to visit his grandparents Emma and Joseph after school. They lived in Penkett Road, so the geography fits. He may have gone to Wallasey Grammar School as early as the age of 8 (thus, September 1930).

He failed the School Certificate by failing one subject, she said, and returned for another year at Trent to take it again. He had hoped to get a Distinction in Music, and got this on the first attempt, but not on the second, something he found very disappointing. I have the vaguest of memories that he told me his father Horace allowed him another year at Trent, and that he was 18 when he left - that would make it July 1940, presumably. He also said that he volunteered immediately - but if this was when war broke out, he would be just 17.

She said he needed the Higher Certificate to join the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and they did not want him without. I had been unaware that he was destined for surveying as early as schooldays.

She confirmed the story, that he had been in the Officer Training Corps at Trent, and so could have gone straight into the Army as an officer. He went over to Liverpool to enlist, arriving at Liverpool Central Station. Finding himself in Bold Street, the RAF recruiting office proved to be nearer than the Army, so he signed up there instead. He was not made an officer then, and seemingly worked up from the ranks, but a public schoolboy would make rapid progress.

She said that he was such a small man that he could not reach the pedals on the planes. He did fly bombers at first, but was transferred to reconnaissance planes, taking photographs, apparently on his own. He told me once that he had been on a course taken by a photographer, all about focal lengths etc, and then found that while on the plane, you just pushed a button to take the photographs. He flew over areas to be invaded, and then over the D-Day landings, to inform the guns of their positions. It was dangerous work, and he had to fly much higher than bombers did, and this gave him ulcers. He told her about an incident that he also related to me. He saw a van running along a road and shot it up, and the driver (and perhaps others?) were killed. He told me that he always wondered about the man (or men) he had killed.

She said that he was forced to land his plane on a wood, because he was too short to reach the controls. I am under the impression that he was court-martialled (without penalty) as a result, but Mum did not think so. Whether it was as a result of this, he was invalided out, suffering from ulcers so badly that his weight was reduced to 5 stones, and his Mother walked past his bed in the hospital without recognising him. He much later told me that his father had visited him in hospital and said he was forming a new firm, H.J.Boughey & Son, and would he object to "Son" in the title?

He received a war pension until at least the time they left Stanley Avenue (1964). I know he was demobilised at the air base at RAF West Kirby (apparently closed in 1955-56, and the site reclaimed with the aid of derelict land grants in the mid-late 1980s). Mum had already met him in adolescence, and they formally started courtship in November 1946. He proposed on the day after her 22nd birthday (thus January 26 1947) and married in August.

So much remains to be discovered - what sort of planes did he fly, and when exactly? Mum has a book somewhere in which he was supposd to record his flights, but most of it is blank. The RAF West Kirby was used to train recruits, and I wonder if he went there first.

He certainly spent some time in Canada during the war, and always had a lot of time for Americans. I recall him relating how he and other RAF people were drinking in a bar, and an American (older man, is my impression) bought a round for the entire crew, and left without saying anything. About Canada, he said that he travelled across by train, and there was one day or prairie, one day of forest, and so on. He always had am ambition to drive across the USA from East to West, but never did so.