A selection of memories: 1950s

Prof Malcolm Ferguson-Smith (Grenville 50)

Grenville was putting on a play in the gymnasium entitled ‘On the Spot’ by Edgar Wallace, based on the life of Al Capone. I was detailed off to collect the props, including material suitable for illustrating the prohibition era. I thought JF would have what I needed so, one evening, I knocked on the door of his apartment in the south wing and asked “Sir, do you have any empty champagne bottles we could use in our play?” “Wait one moment” said he, and returned promptly with a bottle “I’m so sorry, my dear chap, I don’t have any empties, but will this do?” Whereupon I was handed a full bottle of champagne! Somewhat amazed but, with the presence of mind, I thanked him gratefully. Needless to say, it was not used as a prop and the cast and hangers-on shared every drop after the last night.

Commander Neil Murray (Grenville 50)

Close attention and helpful advice from JF, which confirmed my intention to join the Royal Navy.

Mr David Ash (Grafton 50)

I can only remember that sometime between 1947 and 49 we used to cycle on the weekends to a place on a path leading to the Corinthian Gate where we used to get a delicious “fry up” of bacon and eggs. This helped to augment the somewhat boring everyday menu that we endured because of rationing.

Mr Jeremy Burnham (Temple 50)

I was Captain of the Stowe tennis team, which won the Glanville cup at Wimbledon

Mr David Duckworth (Grafton 50)

Reading the Lesson in Chapel was one of the most practical and beneficial skills I learnt at Stowe. Before speaking, it is essential to attract the full attention of the whole congregation. I had my ‘Lesson Audition’ in Chapel from J.F.Roxburgh in June 1949, just before he retired.

You are at the Lectern when the singing of the last verse of the preceding hymn has finished. You capture attention by looking round the whole congregation, with a smile, and counting slowly to yourself 1, 2, 3, 4. By the time you have reached ‘4’, almost everyone has noticed your silence. They look at you and think they are witnessing real, live drama: have you lost your nerve, lost your place, or just dried up? That is when you have them in them in the palm of your hand and you can begin “The (first) lesson is…”. At the end, there is also the temptation for you to finish reading the final verse, say “Here endeth the (second) Lesson”, turn round and walk away from the Lectern, all in the same breath, as if you cannot wait to get away. Instead, after the final verse, you should count slowly to 2, look up and then say “Here endeth…”. It rounds off the Lesson in a neat way. This also applies to lecturing. For years, I used to lecture to audiences in the UK and in other countries. This pause before starting always grabs the attention of the audience. Knowing you can do this engenders enormous self-confidence.

Colonel Oliver Warman (Chandos 50)

The School train arrived at Stowe at teatime and a coach dumped us at the North Front – and from there we found our way – with difficulty. Chandos was what was called a nice House – Cobham was a bit rough! The other Houses were in between and all the inhabitants there had come from what Major Howarth called minor prep schools. Chandos, Bruce and Walpole came from much more famous ones! My Housemaster was a delightful soldier, Major Howarth who really cared for the boys in his House – we were gathered up and shown our dormitories by the House Matron (who was lovely) – overcrowded but comfortable and full of very agreeable fellow Stoics. Thus started four very happy years

Apart from my Housemaster there were some very remarkable Masters, joint-top were Dr Huggins and Bill McElwee – Dr Huggins had an MC and a host of academic, distinguished academic qualifications like those from Music including a Doctorate. But he was also a Master of Foxhounds, which greatly interested me, and I joined him now again, falling off my borrowed horse regularly.

Major Bill McElwee was the man who had captured, in the middle of a 1944 July night, the foothill of Hill 112 in Normandy, commanding a Company of the Seaforth Highlanders (and a subsequent MC having killed a large number of Germans). He was a real hero to those of us who were militarily inclined. He had connections to the Butterflies and the IZ, cricket club of renown and fixed me up in their team quite often – that was magic because the cricket was good and the tea mid-match was wonderful!

Mr Michael Colston (Grenville 51)

My Prep School was in Canada. When I went for interview at Stowe, JF was very long winded. My father was very busy and got rather irritated. He said “Headmaster, will you take the boy or won’t you?” JF replied “not until he gets rid of that dreadful colonial twang”. The irony was that I was always being teased about my English accent when I was in Canada.

Mr James Charlesworth (Grenville 51)

The greatest influence in my time at Stowe was JF. He was always about, taking an interest in all that we did. I remember cooking Saturday tea in Plug Street on a spirit stove, as many of the juniors did, when JF sometimes came along to see what was cooking. He always refused an offer to sample our food. How we did not get food poisoning was probably more down to luck than judgement. I hope the ethos has not changed. It was a great school for boys who could not or would not conform. I fell into the latter category.

Dr Colin Davies (Temple 51)

I recall several incidents that I created at Stowe while I was in Temple. For reasons that will become obvious I have always judged it unwise to say too much about them. But as they all took place between 65 and 70 years ago, I suppose I might as well disclose them now.

During World War II, we had a science teacher from The Latimer Upper School billeted with us. He taught me how to use my chemistry set and taught me a great deal. My Uncle Rod, who worked for Boots the Chemists, got to hear about my interests and was able to supply me with almost any chemical I could think of. At Stowe, I had to wait until I was 16 and got the single study that is (or was) behind the window on the right as you go through the arch into Cobham Court before I could practice my ‘unofficial chemistry’. Here are a few of the ‘experiments’ I got up to:

  1. Phenolphthalein is a white powder. When it is dissolved in water it acts as an indicator; alkalis turn it red. The soap available during and just after WW2 was slightly alkaline, I spread some phenolphthalein in unattended flannels in Bishops Temple washroom, but with rather mixed results.
  2. Malachite Green powder is an extremely strong dye. It is very tricky to handle without getting some on oneself. I out it on study door handles and everyone, myself included, got green hands. Unfortunately, Mr Griffith, a Chemistry Master, immediately recognised it and seemed to know who was responsible. He made me experiment with all sorts of solvents to see which would best remove it. In fact, petrol worked best.
  3. We could buy Sparklet cylinders in the School Shop. They contained liquid carbon dioxide. I put an unused Sparklet cylinder into the coke stove that provided heat for the metal workshop. It fell onto the hot coke but did not explode for 5 or 10 minutes. I had forgotten about it by then, so when the loudest bang I ever succeeded in making happened, it took me by surprise too. It lifted the round metal top right off the stove. The front stoking door burst open and hot coals shot across the workshop floor.
  4. Calcium carbide came in hard black lumps and when it encountered water, it decomposed into flammable acetylene gas and calcium hydroxide/lime. There were two ways of creating an explosion by mixing calcium carbide and water. One way is to partly fill a container with the acetylene gas given off and then apply a flame to it. The other way is to put the carbide and the water into the bottle together and screw the lid on tight. Then you retired to a safe distance and waited for the pressure to build up and burst the bottle with a very loud bang. However, if you had not put enough carbide or water in the bottle, it wouldn’t burst. So, then what do you do? Don’t go near it, but better not leave it there either!
  5. Sodium metal. I had quite a lot of this at Stowe. It is soft enough to be cut into smaller pieces with a knife. It also floats on water and at the same time reacts very violently with water giving off hydrogen gas. Wrapping the sodium up in paper works well, if you can sink the whole parcel quickly, and I first demonstrated this to several Stoics in Plug Street by dropping the parcel into a loo and pulling the chain. The parcel was flushed away, and a few seconds later there was a satisfying BOOM under the concrete floor.
  6. Cobham Pond was a dark and filthy looking pond. I made a suitable depth charge by putting some sodium and a lot of heavy stones into a heavy glass jar, which I tossed it into the pond as I walked past in the dark. There was a very loud bang. The next morning, I was horrified to see all the dead fish floating on the pond. It had never occurred to me that there might be fish in that filthy pond.
Major Malcolm Henderson (Walpole 52)

Every Tuesday afternoon during my first year at Stowe, J.F came to my Form to hear us read aloud. I dreaded his class because reading aloud caused me stress and the stress caused me to falter shamefully. Dyslexia had yet to be recognised and I was thought to be somewhat lazy.

JF would have each member of the Form read a page critiquing the reading for expressive quality before inviting the next reader to continue. He always began on the left of our class working his way to the back and then moving to the front of the next row.

Certain that I would be the fifth to read once JF told the first boy which page to commence reading, I hurriedly counted on five pages and scanned for difficult words that needed time to figure out. This trick helped reduce my stress and lessen my hesitancy. All was relatively fine until one day, just as I was waiting to start my page, I heard: “Fanshawe that was excellent. Please carry on and read the next page.’ That was some seventy years ago and it still gives me shock.

Mr John Soar (Chandos 52)

I recall the punishment of a large number of boys who were lined up outside JF’s study for a beating for having bet on the result of the Derby. JF beat them all over a period of three days! Having no money, I was an observer, otherwise I should probably have been one of them.

Mr Peter Clegg (Chatham 52)

Motor racing began at nearby Silverstone around 1950, which was free when using a bit of initiative. New motorcars from Midland factories were stored in the old RAF hangers at Silverstone around 1948-50. A posse of Stoics managed to get into some of the cars one afternoon and drove them around, crashing some on the airfield and some on the road back to School whilst in a hurry to make the teatime roll call!

Mr George Kent (Cobham 52)

On one occasion JF made an appearance at Assembly. He was immaculately dressed, as usual, but held up in his hand a golf ball for all to see. With a dazzling smile he said, “I would like to meet the enthusiastic golfer who drove his ball through my library window”. He paused, broadened his smile like a tiger, and said, “I would just like to give him his ball back!” This was greeted with uproarious hilarity as JF had the reputation of beating very hard.

Mr Patrick Campbell Fraser (Bruce 52)

There was an extremely alarming incident in prep in the Bruce Common Room. About seven others and I were doing our prep at the table when the boy next to me nudged me and passed me something under the table. This turned out to be a hand grenade with the pin out, but the lever held down by his hand, “Pass it round” he whispered. This I hurriedly did as quickly as I could without being noticed. The grenade managed to be safely passed unseen from hand to hand without anyone failing to grip the lever until it reached the original boy who then replaced the pin and hid it away. I suppose if someone had dropped it, we would have had a few seconds to pick it up and throw it through the window into the Headmaster’s garden, but this assumes that no one lost their head or fumbled throwing it.

Mr Derek Jorgensen (Temple 53)

We used to put on a pantomime in the Temple Room. The stage was set up over the billiard table for a production of Cinderella in which the ugly sisters sang a song in which the last line was “a couple of legs in plaster and a couple of eggs for tea”. The excellent piano accompaniment was played by the Housemaster Mr Capel Cure. The audience song held up on a banner for all to sing was:

“Gin gin was mother’s ruin

Father was cut short by wine

Poor auntie Jane was a prey to champagne

But uncle preferred turpentine

My sister was caught getting frisky

With rum mixed with stout mixed with whisky

But gin gin was mother’s ruin

And mother’s ruine shall be mine.

Mr Peter Levitt (Walpole 53)

On my 15th birthday I was bouncing a squash ball along the Egyptian corridor en route to Walpole. When I came to the ‘Z-section’ of the passage I missed the ball. At that exact time JF came out of his office and I slammed into him. We both fell and his glasses went some distance. I was horrified and thought I would be for the high jump! Instead, we picked ourselves up and JF surprised me by just saying “Happy Birthhday, Peter”. I was even more surprised to realise that JF must have known everyone’s birthday – or at least had a good secretary.

Mr Tom Lewis (Bruce 53)

The honour of playing the title role of Henry VIII in the Historians play of 1953 (I have never seen a review!)

Mr Michael Corbett (Temple 53)

I spent two weeks at Easter with two other members of Temple, riding bicycles from Stowe to Holland with The Revd Carlyle Windsor Richards, including 22km across the Zuyder Zee against the wind and going to the Opera (Windy Dick’s love) in sports togs whilst sitting in the stalls.

Mr Michael Padmore (Chatham 53)

I regularly fished for pike in the lakes and on one occasion I was spinning from the swimming pool area, and I hooked quite a nice fish (about 10lb). This got my spinner caught under a sunken log – I lost the fish and my shiny spinner. However, later, I caught the same fish again and recovered the lost spinner as well!

Mr Alan Morriss (Bruce 53)

I detested rugger and did all I could to get out of it, but this was not always possible. One Wednesday I had to play, and I could not find anyone to lend me a bike to get up to the bourbon fields. I saw one leaning against the bike sheds and decided to borrow it – this was strictly forbidden. On my return, Mr “Beaky” Bradshaw was standing there and said, “Morriss, whose bike is that?” I replied, “Jones’, Sir “, as he used to lend his one to me. He went absolutely mad and shouted, “it isn’t, it’s mine!” and grabbed me by the ear and led me to the Headmaster, JF.

Mr Robin Dean (Grafton 53)

Whilst at Stowe I had the opportunity of having a day’s hunting with the Grafton Hunt. The very thought of a day’s hunting with Grafton excited me as that hunt was then and now looked upon as fashionable Midland Shires pack of hounds. The paramount importance for me was to obtain permission from my Grafton Housemaster Fritz Clifford. When I broached the request for permission to take part in the forthcoming meet at Stowe on a borrowed pony there was a long pause before his reply came, “Boy, have you told your parents?” My answer of course, “Yes”, a further pause, “Boy, as far as this School and myself we would in no way take responsibility for you if you should have the misfortune to have an accident, that would entirely be the responsibility of your parents.”  After leaving his study I could not believe my good fortune and immediately wrote off to my mother for the request to send on to me my hunting clothes.

At the appropriate time I mounted my Pony and joined other riders making their way up the avenue to Stowe. After I had the privilege of being offered a Stirrup Cup, and the huntsman blew on his horn, we were off. I have only a vague recollection of the day as it seemed that the hounds, owing to the over lying frost, had difficulty in holding a line of scent. However, that didn’t deter my enthusiasm mostly in that my pony behaved so well, and it was also to the kindness of the mounted followers realising they had a young Stowe boy riding amongst them giving me every encouragement.

Mr Peter McMullan (Temple 53)

As I approach my eighties, I both reflect on my Stowe days with considerable pleasure. I was no great academic but relished the traditions, the sports and Inter-House competitions, friendships, the fishing and the day-to-day activities associated with an always quite remarkable establishment.  I know the fishing experiences most definitely helped to shape my life as did the influence of Historian tutor, army officer (Military Cross, Normandy) and author Bill McElwee not forgetting the remarkable Patience, his wife at Vancouver Lodge, in those days nearby Dadford village’s unconventional cultural retreat.   On one memorable occasion she stuffed and baked a five-pound pike for us. Sadly, it was not great eating despite a rich sauce and all her culinary efforts: far too many bones. By comparison, her pie made from the breasts of young rooks, shot under Bill’s supervision, was quite superb.

So many of our fishing memories from those days live on for me in the carefully detailed pages of ‘The Angler’s Pocket Record’, a cherished Christmas gift from my parents filled with neatly written notes of those long-ago fishing experiences. The Stowe part begins on January 21, 1951 – “two small pike taken spinning and on dead bait from the Octagon Lake” – and concludes on March 15, 1953, “very cold, stormy”.

Mr Christoph Eberan (Chatham 54)

When the Stowe Model Car Club had built a few model cars with real engines and we proudly asked Headmaster Reynolds whether we could build a racetrack in the grounds, or alternatively use the Marble Hall for our racing. His face turned red and he stamped his foot on the ground whilst shouting “no, no, no, never!”

However, eventually he gave in and we were allowed to build the track, which was soon after officially opened by the then European Model Car Racing Champion, Mr Dean.

Mr Michael Ferrier (Temple 54)

Being rather big and well fed, I was immediately placed in the House Rugby team, although I knew nothing about the game coming straight as I did from Canada. In my second game, we played in near hurricane conditions, and someone kicked the ball high and forward. The wind whisked the ball way up, then blew it right back – straight into my hands. I ran like crazy and scored my first try. I was so proud. But I ran the wrong way! No one talked to me for days.

Our English Master was often late for class. The rule was, if the Master was 15 minutes late, class could be cancelled. One day we spied him racing out of Powerhouse Yard with one minute to go. “Oh no – he’s going to make it.” One lad – I forget his name – raced out of the door and lay down apparently unconscious on the green. The Master stopped dead in his tracks. The lad recovered remarkably quickly and explained he just had a dizzy spell, by this time the rest of us were long gone!

Mr John Dean (Chandos 54)

My abiding memory of Stowe is how busy we all were. I should have left Stowe in the summer of 1954, but National Service loomed, and I wanted to try for the RAF as a pilot – which required physics. It was agreed that I should stay on for an extra term, in which I did the entire two-year O-Level physics course, tutored by “Fluff” Llowarch, and managed to pass the exam.

The Revd Donald Reece (Walpole 55

In the winter of 1954 or 1955 the 11-acre lake froze over. We improvised ice hockey with a tennis ball. It was the first four Houses alphabetically versus the other four Houses.

The Revd Donald Reece (Walpole 55)

During my last year at Stowe, Colin James was School Chaplain. I went to see him to talk about ways of serving God and what would be involved in entering the Church of England ministry. This was unusual because apart from a wedding I had never been to my parish church at home. I was then taking entrance exams to Cambridge for Medicine and did go up in October 1955. While studying Medicine, the call to ordained ministry became clear and I changed to read Theology. In September 1960 I was ordained Deacon in Chester Cathedral. There was a letter waiting for me from Colin James. He had been praying daily for me since I left Stowe. Colin later became Bishop of Winchester.

Mr David Pepper (Bruce 56)

A delightful exhibition of centrifugal force when the Master set himself up on a podium on a rollerball turntable in the classroom to demonstrate the increasing revolution effect of holding a brick in each hand and raising his arms slowly – fortunately he lost his grip on one brick – the resulting smashed window brought the lesson to an unforgettably hilarious conclusion.

Sir Michael Ridley (Cobham 56)

I do recall that the CCF had an ancient Austin 7 with no top available for mechanical training and occasional driving. A well-meaning but slightly pompous Under Housemaster was in charge. One afternoon, as the vehicle was put away, he revved the engine and switched it off, leaving the exhaust system full of unexploded gas. The next time the Master turned it on the gas exploded and blew the system off.

Mr Simon Ruscoe (Bruce 56)

For a number of years Humphrey (“I don’t mind being called Humphrey, but I will not be called Humphrey Bumph”) would take a few boys on a cultural road trip to the Continent during the summer holidays. Together with Gavin Wetton and Jeremy Arnold, I was fortunate enough to be included in the 1955 expedition and still, sixty-one years later, retain some exceptional memories of this adventure. We travelled in Humphrey’s Land Rover through France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy soaking up the ambiance (and a small measure of the wines) of each country. The experience certainly widened my horizons and gave me a real appreciation of different cultures.

Mr Rupert Hunt (Walpole 57)

There was an outstanding personality who shaped my life, Freddy (Geoffrey) Archer. He was a brilliant Mathematics Tutor and was Head of the CCF recruits (The Freddie Boys).

I remember the way Freddie persuaded and motivated stubborn schoolboys to get a mirror shine on boot toe caps and immaculate webbing plus dazzling brasses on formal parade, prior to sending us on some training activity, most of which seemed to take us through one of the lakes or into some boggy mud pit, which not only undid the bullshit but guaranteed hours of work to get back to parade standard. The military training and camps were meaningful and based on that I became SUO and later an Officer RE TA.

Mr Rod Martin (Temple 57)

Much as we had great reverence for our Temple Housemaster, since he was The Rev Windsor Richards, he had two unfortunate tendencies, one of his choosing, the other possibly not. The first being to visit the Senior’s Study very secretly under the cover of darkness to check we were neither drinking alcohol, smoking or had not kidnapped a girl from Tyle house, a local girl’s finishing school, and therefore attained the fond nickname of Creeping Jesus. As to the other, Windy Dick moniker, if it was not his stormy sermons it would be improper of me to surmise!

Mr Michael Andrews (Chatham 57)

I erected a replacement for the missing statue (then undergoing its first refurbishment) in the middle of the night towards the end of the Easter term in 1957. With the assistance of one other boy (Peter Jarvis) we used a bicycle scrounged from a nearby Bruce bike-shed, and fatigues and beret from the CCF stuffed with newspaper.

The main challenge was to get the bike upright. We did this by lifting a concrete bike-stand block up onto the plinth (one of those ones with a slot for the wheel – it was heavy). All this without being spotted – though we had a few anxious moments on the ladder behind the plinth when a car came by.

With our mission completed we spent much of the rest of the night climbing over the rooftops of the main House. I am sorry the photo is not better, but I did not want to get found out as the perpetrator and risk a beating. Sadly, the bike and figure were only in situ for a few hours, some senior vandals from Temple destroyed it the following morning in order to pose for a group photo on the plinth.

Mr Rodney Rawlings (Grafton 57)

I have often wondered what percentage of Stoics over the generations learned to climb the South Front cedar. My guess is around five percent, maybe 30 out of any 600 boys. It was a marvellous training ground for balance, confidence, courage and sound judgement, and a welcome outlet for those of us with minimal interest in conventional sports.

Not having a natural head for heights, it took me a couple of years to master that tree, but by then I was hooked. At around 11:00pm one evening in the summer of 1957, My study mate and I stole out of our Grafton dormitories and made our way under cover of darkness towards the cedar. We had been climbing together that Easter in the Austrian Alps and we had with us my 120-ft climbing rope. Our objective was to climb the tree, which we had never done at night; descend from the top by rope; and then, of course, climb the tree again to retrieve the rope.

The truly scary part for me, at least, having secured the rope to a topmost branch with a clove hitch and a generous number of half-hitches, was transferring my weight from the security of the branch to the rope dangling into the 100-foot abyss below.

I wonder now at our having got up to such an escapade, because in almost all other respects we were models of responsibility and willingness to abide by the rules. We would have been mortified if we had been caught. But the lure of that tree…

Mr Patrick Griggs (Bruce 57)

At the time when Lord Mountbatten visited Stowe to review the CCF, I was a Sergeant in the Demonstration Section under Paddy Pinchbeck. Quite what we were demonstrating I cannot recall but it all took place on the South Front and was a shambles. At this stage my military career took a life-changing lateral step when I transferred to the Internal Combustion Engine (I.C.E.) Section – still with the rank of Sergeant. (I cannot recall who our commanding officer was, but he certainly didn’t feature much in our activities). Gone was the need to blanco belt and gaiters. No more spit a polish to the boots and we were the only Section which was allowed to parade in denims.

As the Sergeant-in-Charge, I had free access to the I.C.E’s equipment and on the pretext of needing to keep the vehicles in sound operating condition I used to take the BSA or the Aerial up to the Bourbon Playing Fields when I was due to play rugger or hockey there. I don’t recall ever being told that I was taking my duties too seriously so I went on using motorised transport as long as I could get my hands on petrol.

Then we had the most amazing bit of good fortune. Bill McElwee owned a 1929 Austin 7 which was offered to the I.C.E. Section after it became surplus to requirements. We accepted the offer with relish. It had not run for a while, and it was only after several attempts at a bump start that we got it going. It then took pride of place in our headquarters. With a bit of help from Mr Acton in the workshops, we managed to get it running more reliably though we never got the self-starter to work and always needed to start it on the handle or with a bump start.

The Austin had its finest hour when it was the focal point for a CCF night exercise when it was the job of the Red Force to get me and the Austin from the Corinthian Arch to the Temple of Concord without being intercepted. Starting the engine would have been a dead give-away so I was man-handled by the Red Force troops (with much grumbling) on a long loop via the Oxford Water to our destination. We made it without being intercepted and I remained comfortable and dry (it was a wet Summer’s night) in the driving seat.

Mr Michael Andrews (Chatham 57)

I was a misfit in the heavily games-orientated society of the School. I could not hit balls and could not run fast. I spent spare time making flying model aircraft, including a scale-model of a Tiger Moth biplane, which crashed onto the roof of the Rotunda, and a launch with a radio control – with electronic valves. I was chosen to pilot the CCF Dangling glider in Chatham Field when Lord Mountbatten came to inspect our battalion and then decided, reluctantly, that it was better not to fly into the 11-acre lake.

My proudest achievement was during my final term when the lead statue of George had been removed from the pedestal on the North Front. I persuaded Peter Jarvis, who knew all about night-climbing on the palace roof, to help me to erect in its place a figure made from CCF denims riding a bicycle. The hardest part was to get the concrete block bike-stand up the ladder to set the bike erect!

Mr Michael Payne (Grafton 58)

In 1954, when the Chairman of the Governors (Lord Wimborne) forgot about Speech Day and arrived late in his gardening clothes.

Mr Christopher Rook-Blackstone (Grenville 58)

I was running up the Armoury field from the Palladian Bridge when the Lord Cobham’s Pillar was hit by lightning and Lord Cobham lost his head!

Mr John Williams (Cobham 58)

The History Tutor, McElwee, was fairly eccentric and drove an old Austin 7. One morning just before Assembly in The Marble Hall, some of the boys carried his car up the North Front steps and placed it in the middle of the hall, exactly over the spot where the Headmaster, Eric Reynolds, used to stand. It was made even more amusing because he was far from being amused and he could not decide if he should stand in front of, beside or behind the car! Great laughter all round!

Mr Robin Behar (Chandos 59)

One of my friends in Chandos during my time was Jack Sobral (Chandos 58). Jack was half-Portuguese and half-American and was mad about Formula One. On the occasion of one British Grand Prix at Silverstone he suggested we take the time-honoured Stoic route of crossing the fields and climbing in at Stowe Corner (wearing our school ties, on sight of which the racecourse officials (in those far-off halcyon days) turned a sympathetically blind eye), and this access route took us to the rear side of the Pits from which the deep rumble and whine of finely-tuned engines was already beginning to emanate.

Suddenly, I felt an iron grip on my arm and my buddy, pointing to an overalled figure in the distance, whispered urgently “Look! Over there! It’s him!” “Who?” I asked, ignorantly. “God! Juan. Manuel. Fangio.” Jack was transfixed, rooted to the spot in awed wonderment. “And out of curiosity, does God speak Spanish, if so, go and speak to him, I’m sure he’d be delighted.”

So off he went, and moments later I saw the great man leading my pal towards his Pit, one arm round his shoulders, where Jack then spent the whole race watching from the Champion’s own Pit and Fangio went on to win yet another Grand Prix.

When we got back to School, I couldn’t help remonstrating “didn’t it occur to you to say you had your buddy with you, and ask if I could join you?” “Do you know,” said Jack apologetically, “everything just went out of my mind, I couldn’t believe he invited me to watch the race with his very own team, and I have to say it was the greatest experience of my life”.

I’ll bet he remembers it to this day. I most certainly do, if somewhat more wistfully!

Mr Robin Thomas (Bruce 59)

A Culture tour round Italy in a party of 10 organised by Bill McElwee and Humphrey Playford in August/September 1959. Bill’s Delarge broke down in Bologna and half the party had to return home by train.

Mr John Bond-Smith (Bruce 59)

On the occasion of the late Lord Mountbatten inspecting the CCF in the morning, the late Lord Wrottesley fell off his chair into E.V Reynolds (Headmaster) garden from the balcony of Grenville House narrowly missing E.V.R who replied, “I too have been in Mountbatten’s helicopter!”

Mr James Ferrier (Grafton 59)

The statue of George on horseback on the North Front when filled with water and with the inevitable result!

Mr David Manzi-Fe (Cobham 59)

Climbing up the pipes from Plug Street to watch music from above the frieze in the big assembly rooms.

Mr Christian Mungall (Temple 59)

Although I was (happily) in the Combined Cadet Force, as an American citizen I probably should not have been. The introduction to rifles has affected my life ever since. Knowing that I was going, one way or another, to Alaska, I took a sporterized Lee Enfield jungle carbine in my Land Rover with me – first to the US via a passenger/cargo ship, then (improperly) through Canada to Fairbanks.

Mr Richard Barratt (Chandos 59)

OK guys, it is time for me to own up! It has been preying on my mind for some years. Out there in the vast wastes near the Bourbon, in amongst the pine trees and hidden beneath the needles was a bottle of Rose’s Lime Juice. Ah well, you cry, that is not very exciting, but lying next to it was a bottle of gin. This was a life saver when it all got too much.

The four of us (no names) would sit amongst the trees sipping our gimlets trying to remember what normal life was like and whether certain female acquaintances at home would remember us. In the summer sun this was an idyllic pastime. At other times of the year, it was out of desperation. This contraband was imported into Stowe in a well-worn black trumpet case and replenished regularly at weekends when parents remembered that their offspring was in serious need of sustenance.

I cannot remember whether I or my fellow criminals ever bothered to collect the treasure hidden in the trees before we finally left Stowe. I think not. So, if some of the more adventurous of you go hunting, please help yourself and have one on us. I know that at least two of the “criminals” are still with us and I hope this stirs a pleasant memory of days over fifty years ago when times were different to say the least.

Mr David Ridley (Cobham 59)

Tim Dyke (Cobham 58) and I were exact contemporaries and quite good friends. It seems hard to imagine now but when the eight new boys arrived in Cobham in September 1954, I was actually the second tallest after Martin Hotham (Cobham 59). Dyke was comparatively short in 1954 but he had a large flat round face with a glowing complexion so a human resemblance to the harvest moon was not inaccurate and it was not long before the teasers named him ‘moon face’. He didn’t relish the nickname but when boys learnt that the family department stores were named ‘Bratt & Dyke’ they moved on to calling him ‘brat’. He complained to his mother and was told “just tell the boys that Mr Bratt was a very nice man”. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I have now discovered that Mr Bratt, a successful owner of stores in Northwich, Cheshire, had lent money to Tim’s great grandfather to open his first store in the Potteries in 1896.

In the little tale which I wish to relate Tim has only a supporting part, the leading role being filled by his mother, Mrs Dyke. I remember her as a petite, neat little woman, impeccable but never flashy, kind and generous to those who were kind to her son but never touched by flattery. She was not one to be hood-winked, indeed she had a Midlands distinct distrust of anyone until she was sure of them.

She had a steel hard determination for everything to be right for her Timothy. From 13 to 15 ½ Dyke had shot up. Before he was 16, he was already a towering 6 foot. It was about this time, I know it was before we were 16, that one holiday I was invited to stay. During the previous term Tim had excitedly told me that for his 16th birthday he had been bought a Messerschmitt. This was a 3-wheeler with a 2 stroke, putt-putt engine with a cockpit just like the famous fighter aircraft. As a Learner one could drive a 3-wheeler on the road at 16 but having yet to reach that milestone, Tim, with me seated behind rather like the gunner, negotiated it round and round the rockery at ‘Greenaway’, Seabridge, Newcastle, Staffs…which Mrs Dyke pronounced ‘Starffs’.

It was during this visit that I was told of the trip to London which Mrs Dyke had made with Tim to show him something of the Capital. It may seem difficult to realise now that many of the boys coming from the Midlands and the North had never been up to London. On their first morning they took the underground to Tottenham Court Road, the closest station to the British Museum. Now, although it is the closest, it is not necessarily the most convenient. It is very busy and there are numerous exits so on emerging to street level it is easy to be disoriented. Mrs Dyke got out her A to Z but was still puzzled as to which way the Museum was. Not wishing to waste too much time she marched to the head of the taxi rank and asked the cabbie for directions showing him the relevant square on the map. “‘Op in the back lady. I’ll take you there. That’s the best way.” “But I know it’s very close” said Mrs. Dyke “we want to walk” “I said ‘op in the back lady.”

Offended and irritated, Mrs. Dyke, seeing there was nothing else for it, ‘oppped in the back with 6-foot Tim. Her frustration grew as the taxi, which had to avoid one-way streets, went around a route much further than the walk would’ve been and deposited them outside the British Museum. The basic fare for a London cab in 1957 was one and nine. The meter showed two and three. Mrs. Dyke alighted, rather flushed and handed the cabbie half a crown. “‘Cor Lady thruppence tip – I wouldn’t give that to my little boy.” Turning abruptly on her heel, her hand held out “Well give it me back and I’ll give it to mine.”

No one messed with Mrs. Dyke!