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School First experience of school


I would have started I suppose at about four and a half. I went to what now would be called I suppose a Dame school. In fact it was virtually just a room or a couple of rooms in the base of a flower mill. Which the business of this flower yard went on around us really and then it moved out to one or two prefabricated buildings on a site just on the edge of the town. Which the buildings had been left over from the war and it had a bit of rough ground with it and it was a very kind of pleasant experience really.

... I don’t suppose there were more than about twenty or thirty children at the most.

It was a private school as opposed to being a state school.

I suppose it would have taken children on until the end of primary school, because I certainly stayed there until he age of eight. I’m not quite sure what happened to children after that whether they went to Whether they stayed on longer or went somewhere else...

I can remember sitting in the classroom, learning about sheep farming in Australia I don’t know why I can remember that but I can. I can remember reading books. I can certainly, well I think I can remember actually learning to write though that may be in part because I’ve still got some of my initial exercise books and they probably reminded me of it. We used to have little ex.. this was in the days of shortages and so on so the exercise books were cut in half with a pair of scissors to make two little books which we then sat and copied out A’s B’s and so on that was really the beginning of my schooling.
What about other children do you remember any friends there?
Yes. There was a mixture yes, I had boys and girls who were friends. We went to each others house and had parties and so on and that was very much part of the social scene I suppose most of the other children were kind of what you might call middle class children or lower middle class children. Sons and daughters of other traders or doctors or whatever in the town.


  Sent away to school    

back to schoolAnd going back to school where did you go next?
Well, I was sent away to school. My parents’ business was successful I suppose you could say that the family was lower middle class with pretensions of something better really and they thought that to give me a private education was the best thing they could do for me and One has to kind of admire them for that really and so at about the age of I think about eight and a half I went away to boarding school in Bradford on Avon to a school called Kingwell Court which was quite a nice little school really quite.. a bit homesick to begin with but I saw my parents about every three weeks I either had a day out or a half term It’s surprising when you’re that age how quickly you adapt to being a boarder at a school. Odd things I can remember like the first day there my, I had a new biro or ballpoint pen as you call them now I suppose which my parents had given to me as a present to take away to school with me and it was confiscated on the grounds that ballpoint pens were bad for your handwriting and You had to write with a fountain pen and therefore from then onwards I had to write with a fountain pen and did for many years really.

I remember my first teacher was a young woman called Miss Watson who I was very fond of and thought was a great teacher and I think I got quite upset when she got married (laughing) to one of the other teachers. But the other teachers were quite interesting because it was just after the war, so my geography teacher had been a rear gunner in a Lancaster bomber which was very romantic and the English I think and Latin teacher had been in the eight army in the desert in North Africa and had a kind of faded face on his watch to show how long he’d been in the sun. The Maths master who was a very good maths master quite strict |Mr Schegeloff was an émigré from Russia he’d come out of Russia so probably as a result of the Russian Revolution and lived in Bradford-On Avon and taught maths. Quite successfully really One or two other odd characters The head teacher changed while I was there and the new one had a tendency to go down into the town and be driven back by his wife rather the worse for wear and everybody in the dormitories used to keep very quiet because we knew that if he heard any noise or anything he’d come in rather angry and inebriated and beat you with a slipper so we all kept very quiet when he came round. We had another English master who I don’t think was there that long but I understand or a remember being told had a metal plate in his head probably another casualty from the war or something. But he was really not totally sane and he used to sit and read us English grammar books in a kind of droning voice and then he’d look up, decide that we weren’t paying attention and fling a board rubber, which was a sort of wooden thing with a felt on it. He’d fling it and everyone would open the top of their desks in order to shield themselves from this flying board rubber so that was a bit interesting but we kind of survived
Were they kind to you?
On the whole I would say yes. I never, I never remember being unhappy at school at all... we played games all the time of course Probably most afternoons, football, hockey , rugby, cricket in the Summer of course and there were other activities and things so it was that’s the way life was then . Lived in dormitories with iron bedsteads,which had different colours. There was a sort of stripe painted round the wall of orange or green or pink or something like that which was your dormitory they probably held eight or ten or a dozen boys in each room. It was like a country house really and so that was the way life was There was time to as I say make model aeroplanes drink the free milk and all the rest of the things that were part of the post-war era ... We did have radio we used to listen to the radio particularly in the evening. There was a programme, there was some kind of science fiction programme something like ‘journey into space’ I think it was called something of that kind We listened to that avidly we probably had occasional films too I think but listening certainly when we were able to listen to the wireless as we should have called it then not the radio    


I corresponded from very early on. My earliest letters are quite hilarious because they're..all my first letters from Kingwell from the age of about eight to my parents all manage to raise the issue of sweets in one form or another In like ‘my sweet ration seems to be getting a bit low, I wonder whether you could send me some more sweets?’ We did have sweets but they were rationed out. You know you had a few perhaps once a week or something I can’t exactly remember how it was done but they were kept in the cupboard and you were given your little share as a treat every week. I do actually remember sweets coming off ration because they were rationed .They were one of the last things to come off coming off ration after the war I do funnily enough remember that. Obviously a great event in my life, sweets coming off ration and becoming more freely available.

Life at Marlborough

And when you went to your next school was that like starting afresh?
Well, the next school was Marlborough College and that was obviously a much bigger school much more in a way more demanding I suppose you had to kind of grow up pretty quickly really and live with what was a much. well, a tougher regime It wasn’t that hard really I mean I don’t want to give the impression
that it was really cruel or anything it wasn’t but it did require getting up and getting on with life There was wonderful punishments and things. There was one punishment where they rang bells I think they were probably about three minutes apart and at the first one you had to be in bed in your pyjamas and by the second one you had to be fully dressed and reported to the prefect at the other end of the dormitory and the snag was of course that we had separate collars with collar studs and cufflinks and things so it was it did require quite a kind of logistical effort to get yourself organised the night before to fulfil this particular punishment. Another strange punishment was learning poetry it was called repetition you had to learn a poem as a punishment and then kind of recite it back. I still remember one of the poems I learnt was Coleridge’s in Kubla Khan which funnily enough I was reading a book the other day that David gave me and it was in it and remember the first lines of that to this day and could recite it again well the first part of it because I learnt it as a punishment all those years ago. Quite strange.

Going back to your sweet ration, did you have a tuck box for school?
I didn’t have a tuck box at Kingwell Court but Marlborough we did we actually had a tuck box which was a wooden box which you filled up hopefully if your parents were nice with tins of baked beans and the odd cake which obviously didn’t last very long and so on and then we actually had gas rings and you could go and cook something and you could make toast in your study or whatever we had studies when you got a bit older So you make toast and things of that kind, simple meals if you got hungry but I mean I don’t remember doing it a lot obviously you could have sweets and things there was a sweet shop in town you could go and buy a few sweets, things like that.

So you were given some freedom to leave the school at some stage?
Well at certain times of day anyway. You could go out, lunchtimes you could go out in the town yes and of course you could cycle wherever you wanted there was, yes there was quite a freedom there to get out I mean you were supposed to be, obviously you only had a limited time you could only go so far in a particular direction there was also the cadet force so that was you know we had the cadet force activities.
Was that something that you could choose to do?
I don’t really remember whether there was any choice not to (laughing) certainly everybody did belong to it You were you know kitted out with a first world war uniform and a rifle and that was you know, that was what you did. It had a naval section, an air force section and an army section and a band and I was in the band the band was a slightly cushy number because if it got really cold you sat round the band room and practiced because if you went out your instruments froze so you had to sit round the fire in the band room which was definitely the best thing to do Most of my cadet work was really playing in the band.
Did you do parades and marches?
Oh yes I did all that and we would beat the retreat in sort of formal ceremonies and things like that.We had our annual parade where we were inspected the most famous one being by the inspection by field Marshall Montgomery which happened when I had just joined the cadet force I must have been about fourteen or something I suppose I’ve got photos of me with him looking at me somewhat quizzically and me with my belt askew. Not looking terribly soldierly really so that was quite an event the kind of event I remember really well. He talked to us all afterwards in the school hall and he kind of said “the headmaster says you all have a half day “ ( because we had half days off and everything) and he said ‘well I’ve told him you’re to have a whole day .He was really quite a character. I remember that well. We used to have music concerts in the same hall sort of pianists and orchestras and things coming to play so the music side of it was quite good really.
And what did you play in the band?
I played the euphonium and I played, later on learnt to play the trombone I played the trombone as well. I played the trombone in the school orchestra. We had a school orchestra and we had a kind of a military band which was woodwind and brass and I played the euphonium in the military band and that was good fun I really enjoyed that that’s when I really learnt to play an instrument unfortunately I didn’t keep it up after I left school but it was fun.

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